With February drawing to a close and Cleveland weather set to warm up for a few days, there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy the many outdoor Cuyahoga Arts and Culture (CAC) activities—from a Slovenian-inspired Mardi Gras to a one-of-a-kind music and art festival to close encounters with birds and owls.
Check out these family-friendly events sure to seal the deal for an unforgettable winter weekend, Cleveland-style.
A decade of Brite Winter
No matter whether the sun is shining or the snow is flying, this weekend will mark the 10th year of Brite Winter in the Flats. The event's planners are expecting up to 20,000 people to descend on the West Bank of the Flats on Saturday, February 23, from 3 p.m. to 1 a.m. and enjoy music on five indoor and outdoor stages. Three immersive art experiences, 12 fire pits, eight food trucks and 10 beer tents will round out the festivities.
“We’re still trying to maintain that music and art that makes Brite Winter great,’ says executive director Brian Horsburgh. “There’s something fun for the whole family."
This year’s theme is #Brite10: Onward!, meant to recognize the first 10 years and look forward to the next decade.
Three immersive art tents will be set up following "By Land," "By Air" (modeled after an airplane hangar), and "By Sea" motifs. Horsburgh is particularly excited about the By Land tent, which will be placed atop the sand volleyball court and feature a desert theme, trains, and 15-foot-tall camel statues. “There’s really trippy stuff that catches the eye,” teases Horsburgh.
With 40 bands scheduled to play—more than 30 from the Cleveland area—there’s bound to be music for everyone as well. “We got some core Cleveland bands, some returns, and many new acts,” says Horsburgh. “And we’re excited to host them all.”
National bands hail from California, Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and New York, with notable acts including headliner Los Angeles-based indie pop band Smallpools and Cleveland native R&B and hip hop artist Ezri. “We’re always focused on getting the best lineup that represents Cleveland,” says Horsburgh.
Brite Winter has come a long way in the last decade. During the first year, in 2009, three bands played on one stage with no roof to 500 people, recalls Horsburgh, and there was one fire pit and one food stand. “Obviously, the sheer scope and scale of everything has changed,” he says. “We’ve worked really hard since year one.”
Brite Winter is able to keep improving each year thanks to a CAC 2019 $26,400 Project Support grant. Admission to Brite Winter is free (with VIP tickets available). Donations are also accepted at the gate.
Pancakes are for the birds
Start the weekend off right this Saturday, February 23, with a full pancake breakfast and an informative hike at the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes. Every year, the Nature Center teams up with the Rotary Club of Shaker Heights to host Pancake Breakfast with the Birds—one of the many programs the center puts on with its 2019 CAC $73,262 general operating support grant.
Pancake Breakfast with the Birds at Nature Center at Shaker Lakes The morning begins at 8 a.m. with an ongoing all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast—complete with regular, gluten-free, blueberry, and chocolate chip options—along with sausage, applesauce, juice and coffee, plus "real Northeast Ohio maple syrup,” adds Nature Center president and CEO Kay Carlson. “Then we have different opportunities to learn about birds and their habitats.”
Guests will learn about birds through guided hikes in the Nature Center, with an adult hike at 8 a.m. and family hikes at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. There will also be craft projects starting at 8:30 a.m., and The Rotary Club will conduct a raffle before the festivities wrap up at 12 p.m.
“It’s a great way to get breakfast and to get out and enjoy a hike,” Carlson says of the day.
If pancakes, hikes, and crafts aren’t enough to get you going, the Nature Center has also partnered with Frisky Ferrets, Fuzzies, and Feathered Friends Rescue and Sanctuary, who will bring therapy birds—such as doves and pigeons—for feature demonstrations at 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. “They are all rescue birds who have all been injured or are unable to fly,” explains Carlson.
The Nature Center is located at 2600 South Park Blvd. in Shaker Heights. Tickets cost $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 4-10, and children under four years old are free. Tickets can be purchased in advance, or reservations can be made by calling the Nature Center at (216) 321-5935.
Chase away winter with the Kurent
Since 2013, Cleveland’s Slovenian community has been following the traditions of Kurentovanje—a 50-year Slovenian Mardi Gras festival centered around the Kurent, a mythical creature believed to chase away winter and usher in spring with its supernatural powers.
“We’re ready to scare away winter, break out of our cocoons, and meet new people,” says Nicole Kusold-Matheou, a member of the organizing committee. “We’re looking to embrace that whole Mardi Gras season.”
Held in the historical Slovenian immigrant neighborhood of St. Clair-Superior, Kurentovanje continues to attract more people each year. With this year’s festival extended over six days—from Monday, February 25, to Saturday, March 2—organizers expect turnout to be in the thousands.
“This is our seventh year,” says Kusold-Matheou. “We started with just one day and we’ve been steadily building up to this. Kurentovanje lasts multiple weeks in Slovenia, depending on the moon’s cycle, so one solid week seems like a good milestone to hit.”
The Slovenian Winter Festival is put on with help from a CAC $5,000 project support grant for the Slovenian Museum and Archives.
Kurentovanje kicks off on Monday at the Slovenian National Home with a multi-course dinner prepared by three Slovenian chefs (who are flying to Cleveland from Slovenia for the event) and local chef David Kocab of Black Pig. “We’re really excited to have this trans-Atlantic team of chefs preparing a dinner designed to be representative of the region these chefs are coming from,” says Kusold-Matheou.
On Tuesday, The Slovenian Museum and Archives will open a free interactive exhibit and lecture featuring Slovenia’s best known poet, France Prešeren. “This poet is pretty much of a rock star in Slovenia—a cross between Beethoven and the Rolling Stones,” says Kusold-Matheou, who adds that some previously undiscovered manuscripts were unearthed in Cleveland a couple of years ago.
Wednesday’s craft night in the Hamilton Collaborative is sold out, but on Thursday, Slovenian Consul General Andrej Rode will talk about how to obtain Slovenian dual citizenship at the Slovenian National Home at 7 p.m.
On Friday, the Kurent Jump at the Hermit Club at Hoffbrauhaus Cleveland will kick off the weekend events as a dozen Kurents—in what is believed to be the largest collection of Kurent costumes in North America— jump around the fire to chase away winter. A 5K dash, parade, and lively festival will conclude the festivities on Saturday.
To learn more about what's in store, click here.
Owl Prowl at Lake Erie Science and Nature Center
Prowl for Owls
The staff at the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center (LENSC) wants families in Northeast Ohio to give a hoot about the region’s various breeds of owls. Its popular annual Owl Prowl will be held tomorrow, Friday, February 22, from 7 to 9 p.m.
“Every year, Owl Prowl sells out,” says LENSC marketing director Morgan Paskert. “You get to see all of our resident owls.”
LENSC's resident owls include barred, great horned, and Eastern screech varieties—all native to North America. Staff and LENSC students will be holding the owls for guests to get an up-close and personal experience with the creatures.
In the planetarium, specific shows will be tailored to owl watching, while LENSC birding expert Tim Jasinski will lead owl-spotting hikes through the Cleveland Metroparks Huntington Reservation. “Tim will do some [owl] calls,” promises Paskert. “There are two famous barred owls there who breed almost every year, so sometimes we see the babies.”
Hikers and other guests are invited to warm up by the indoor fire during the event. Tickets for Owl Prowl are $10 per person; children under age two are free. Call (440) 871-2900 or email for tickets or more information. LENSC is located at 28728 Wolf Road, Bay Village.