Hot air balloons begin to fill the Monroe County Fairgrounds Saturday evening as the sun began to set. Participating balloons returned or were retrieved from their flights to stand tall and light up their burners during live performances by Marc Broussard on Friday night and Jenn Cristy on Saturday.


Trust a college town to know how to ease back into school and work every autumn. Bloomington offers a solid three weekends of festivals in September, kicking off with the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts & Crafts (September 3–4), a juried show that attracts some 120 artists and artisans from around the country. The event’s slogan is “Run by artists, for artists,” and it celebrates its 40th anniversary this year. An estimated 40,000 visitors browse booths on 4th Street, perusing paintings, photographs, furniture, pottery and sculpture, fabric arts, and more. Arts-related nonprofits also set up booths, so it’s an opportunity to survey the local cultural scene. A spoken-word festival runs concurrently. And this year, the festival is adding a display of art by local high school students.

That same weekend is the third annual Bloomington Garlic Fest & Community Art Fair at Third Street Park. And a new event debuts on that Saturday, September 3: the Quarry Festival of Books, presented by IU Press and Bloom Magazine. It features authors from Indiana University Press, University of Notre Dame Press, Baylor University Press, as well as other Hoosier writers and will take place in Dunn Meadow on the Indiana University campus from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fourth annual Kiwanis Hot Air Indiana Balloon Fest lifts off the next weekend (September 9–11). The skies above the Monroe County Fairgrounds will be dotted with 20 hot air balloons and this year, for the first time, a team of skydivers will be a part of the festivities. Tethered balloon rides will also be offered. The Night Glow, on Friday and Saturday, when the balloons return to the ground and are illuminated by their propane heaters, is always a highlight. The event is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of South Central Indiana to raise funds for Riley Hospital for Children, Boys & Girls Clubs of Bloomington, and other community service projects.

Come back down to earth for the 23rd Lotus World Music & Arts Festival (September 15–18). An estimated 10,000–12,000 people flock to these global music concerts at sites across Bloomington. Look for Movits!, the Swedish swing/hip-hop band that is Lotus’ all-time most popular offering. And A-WA, a young Israeli folk/electro-pop band composed of three sisters who sing in Yemenite, will make its debut. In 2015, Lotus’ first Food Truck Village was such a hit that this year Bloomington celebrity chef David Tallent is acting as the Village’s guest curator. He’s been visiting food truck gatherings to select the best to participate. Another local touch: In recognition of Indiana’s state bicentennial, the free Saturday afternoon concert will focus on Hoosier music.

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2009 Lotus Festival in Bloomington, Indiana.