Don't miss the boat on Hampton Roads festivals this spring

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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

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

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

Carnival rides by Amusements of America, concerts, livestock club show and sale, BBQ cook-off, and fireworks are part of the fun. Food vendors, arts and crafts and children's activities will also be featured. Admission is $2. On-site parking is $5. Chesapeakejubilee.org

May 19-20: Stockley Gardens Spring Arts Festival, Norfolk

All day Saturday and Sunday, more than 100 artists exhibit a wide variety of media, including painting, sculpture, ceramics, jewelry, photography and others. In addition, there are children's activities, live musical entertainment and food vendors from across the region. It all happens outdoors at Stockley Gardens park in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood. hope-house.org

May 26-27: Pungo Strawberry Festival, Pungo community of Virginia Beach

Taste strawberries prepared 50 different ways, enjoy entertainment on three stages and see a parade on Saturday, carnival, livestock show, arts and crafts. Admission is free, $5 parking charge. It takes place at 1776 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach. No pets allowed. Pungostrawberryfestival.info or 721-6001.

May 31-June 3: Newport News Greek Festival, Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, Newport News

Authentic Greek victuals; a large arts, craft and jewelry marketplace; pastries; and Greek music and dance make this one of the largest and most popular ethnic celebrations in the region. Newportnewsgreekfestival.org or 596-5599.

JUNE

June 1-3: Hampton Blackbeard Pirate Festival, downtown Hampton

Enjoy a pirate ball, live entertainment, pirate re-enactors and their encampment, children's activities, sea battles, fireworks and more as Hampton remembers and celebrates the demise of Blackbeard, one of the fiercest pirates ever known. Free. 727-0900 or blackbeardfestival.com

June 1-3: Patriotic Festival, Virginia Beach oceanfront

Show center is at 15th Street as the U.S. NavyBlue Angels perform June 1 as well as parachute teams, amphibious squads, Geico Skytypers, Miss Geico Extreme Boat Race. Concerts by Miranda Lambert (June 1), Steel Pulse (June 2) and Scotty McCreery (June 3), will take place at 5th Street. http://www.patrioticfestival.com.

June 1-3: Yorktown Maritime Weekend

Spirit of Bermuda, Lynx, Godspeed and the Schooner Alliance will be moored at Yorktown's historic waterfront for this OpSail 2012-related event. Free public tours of tall ships, Navy and Coast Guard vessels will be offered. Demonstrations and a Saturday Parade of Sail will also take place. http://www.opsail2012virginia.com/events-schedule/yorktown

June 8-12: Harborfest, Town Point Park, downtown Norfolk

One of the East Coast's premier waterfront festivals gets even bigger this year with the arrival of OpSail 2012, a national maritime history celebration which will bring tall ships and naval vessels from around the world to the region. In addition to all the hulls, masts and decks, Harborfest will feature concerts — by the likes of Bruce Hornsby — children's activities, seafood, gift vendors and fireworks. Activities stretch from the Waterside Festival Marketplace to the Historic Freemason Harbor. Festevents.org

June 6: OpSail 2012 Sea and Air Parade

The Sea and Air Parade of Sail will include tall ships as well as an international fleet of naval vessels, waterborne and air assets from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Army Corps of Engineers and other government and private groups. The parade will pass Fort Monroe in Hampton, and into downtown Norfolk along the Elizabeth River. http://www.opsail2012virginia.com

June 14-17: Boardwalk Art Show and Festival, Virginia Beach oceanfront

Arrayed along the Virginia Beach boardwalk between 17th and 32nd streets, this show generates as much as $2 million in art sales annually, helping the event to be ranked among the top fine art and design shows in the nation by Sunshine artist magazine. virginiamoca.org/outdoor-art-shows/boardwalk-art-show

June 22-24: Hampton Jazz Festival, Hampton Coliseum

The 44th edition of this event will feature two nights and one afternoon of music from some of the best-known R&B and smooth jazz talent artists in the nation. Kenny G, Natalie Cole and Jill Scott are on the bill this year. Tickets are $56.50 for each of the three days of the festival. http://www.hamptonjazzfestival.com or 838-4203

June 22-24: Bayou Boogaloo and Cajun Food Festival, Town Point Park, downtown Norfolk

The Bayou Boogaloo and Cajun Food Festival is Norfolk's annual salute to New Orleans spirit and bayou culture. Three stages feature national recording artists. Food vendors supply the etouffee and jambalaya. Festival is free Friday afternoon, but a ticket is required other times. An advance $20 three-day pass will be available. Daily admission is $10. Festevents.org

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