TALLINN - For anyone unfamiliar with Tallinn's massive Ollesummer (Beer Summer) festival, there are two important things to know. First, it's hands down the biggest summer event in Estonia 's possibly in the entire Baltic region 's with about 80,000 visitors dropping in over the five day period. And second, it's not really about the beer. Sure, there's plenty to drink, but the true emphasis here is on the music.
"It's a whole city, not just a bar anymore," says Raimond Kaljulaid, spokesman for Meediaekspress, the company that's been putting Beer Summer since its beginning in 1996.
The "city" description isn't far off. This July 4 - 8 the entire area of the Song Festival Grounds will be filled with beer tents, lanes, eateries and stages (over 10 in all), while crowds mill around, lining up for the obligatory plate of sizzling meat and fried potatoes and a cup of exotic, foreign brew.
Visitors who have been to previous festivals will find this year's very familiar, with the only difference this time being the absence of the amusement park rides. The bungee jumping, silly hat stalls and go-go dancers will all be back.
To keep things fresh and interesting though, says Kaljulaid, there has to be one big, exclusive show each year. This time the Sunday finale concert will be a tribute to the 35th anniversary of ABBA. During the 90-minute show, which starts at 8 p.m., popular Estonian singers like Tanel Padar, Lenna Kuurmaa of Vanilla Ninja, Dave Benton and Ines 's all Eurovision veterans 's will be singing covers of the Swedish group's songs in English and Estonian.
If ABBA isn't your cup of tea, a better bet would be "Dave Benton does Jazzmasters," happening in the Wine and Jazz tent Thursday evening at 10:30p.m. An hour later one of Russia's most popular rock bands, Bi2, will perform on the main stage.
Friday's big-name guest is Sergio Bastos & The Raivo Tafenau Band, performing English and Portuguese Bossa Nova, and Saturday night will see a good, old-fashioned Estonian song festival under the main arch.
Pyromaniacs, however, will want to come to the first night of the festival to see the 11 p.m. opening ceremony, and its impressive, synchronized fireworks display, which involves a 136-meter line of rockets.
Those are just the main events. There will be a total of 100 musical acts represented, as well as activities ranging from hair styling to something called "strip aerobics."
Organizers point out, however, that this is a family event, with loads of fair-type fun for the kiddies. Under-sixes get in free. Parents should write their mobile number on their child's arm.
Tickets at the gate cost 150 kroons (9.58 euros) for adults, 75 kroons for children aged 6 to 11. A five-day festival pass costs 500 kroons.
Tallinn Song Festival Grounds
July 4 's 8
Open 3 p.m. - 1 a.m.,
Sunday 3 p.m. - 11 p.m.www.ollesummer.ee