Scurry up into the metaphorical crow's nest and train your eyes on the calendar's horizon. You'll spot a fleet of festivals heading straight for Hampton Roads.
Spring is when outdoor parties start popping — right along with the flowers. This spring, an unusually large party is scheduled to populate our rivers, harbors and bays. OpSail 2012, a giant floating celebration of maritime culture past and present, will gracefully glide into view in early June.
The event will bring a collection of tall ships and military vessels here from around the world. It's timed to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the birth of "The Star-Spangled Banner."
Around all that pomp and circumstance, you'll find an assortment of outdoor and indoor festivals built around everything from jazz to birding and art.
Climb aboard and enjoy the ride.
April 16-June 6: Virginia Arts Festival, various locations
Dozens of performances spread over seven weeks in locations from Williamsburg to Virginia Beach. Tickets range from to $20-$125 for individual performances, which include shows by Itzhak Perlman, Bela Fleck and Al Pacino. Call 800-982-2787 or visit vafest.org.
April 21: Spring Fountain Fair, Town Point Park, Norfolk
Put on your bathing suit, grab a towel and be part of this great family fun day at TowneBank Fountain Park at Town Point Park. Live entertainment from School of Rock and The Hurrah Players, cakewalks, Hula Hoop contests, sack races, cornhole, face painting, balloons, give-a-ways and more! Free cotton candy and free mini cupcakes from Just Cupcakes. Admission is free. festevents.org.
April 28: NATOFest, Town Point Park, downtown Norfolk
Explore 28 countries in a day, no passport required. Food, culture and entertainment will be offered from NATO member nations. A Parade of Nations will also take place. Free and open to the public. Azaleafestival.org
May 5: Children's Festival of Friends, Newport News Park
Children ages 2-12 can enjoy more than 100 free hands-on activities, costumed characters and free children's rides. Food vendors will be on site. Activities and admission is free, but a $5-per-car parking fee will be charged. Attendance at this event can be as large as 10,000, organizers say. Nngov.com/parks-and-recreation
May 5: Paddle for the Border, Dismal Swamp Canal, Chesapeake
This annual paddle event in the Dismal Swamp Canal. Runs from Camden County, N.C. to Chesapeake. Registration required. Visit http://www.dismalswampwelcomecenter.com/Paddle_for_the_Border.php
May 10-12: Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival, Suffolk
Presented by groups including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this festival gives residents the chance to learn about birds living in and around the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Reserve. Make reservations starting Monday for guided walks, bus tours, canoe birding sessions and workships. All activities are free and open to the public. Sponsors include the U.S. Forest Service and Environment for the Americas. Visit fws.gov/northeast/greatdismalswamp or call 986-3705.
May 17-20: Chesapeake Jubilee, Chesapeake City Park