Summer fun: 5 fab festivals - United Hub
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Summer fun: 5 fab festivals

By Bob Cooper, July 14, 2016

Travel, festivals and summertime go together like bacon, lettuce and tomato. Many of America's biggest and best festivals are in the weeks ahead in places that are also a delight to explore in the days before or after festival dates. Here are five summer festivals worthy of a trip.

View of the Art Festival on the streets in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Art festival — Ann Arbor, Michigan

It's a good thing that the 58th annual Ann Arbor Art Fair (July 20-24) happens when most University of Michigan students have gone home for the summer, because the six-figure crowds that flock to the free festival need the parking spots. Artists are spread over 30 blocks in the heart of the city at the university and on downtown streets, which you can walk or negotiate rides via free shuttle buses. Throughout the festival's four days, juried art of every kind is on display, along with concerts and street performances. Ann Arbor is a 40-minute drive from Detroit Metro Airport.

Several different beers on a table at the Beer Festival in Portland, Oregon

Beer festival — Portland, Oregon

Whether it's coffee, wine or beer, they take their liquids seriously in the Pacific Northwest — maybe because so much comes down from the sky. But there's nothing watered down about the liquids poured at the 30th Oregon Brewers Festival (July 26-30). Eighty-eight U.S. craft brewers, plus 23 more from abroad in the International Beer Garden, are represented in this celebration of suds. There's no admission charge; you only pay $7 for a souvenir mug, plus $5 per beer or $1 per taste. Live music, home brewing demonstrations and handcrafted root beer (for designated drivers) are also on tap. Attended by about 80,000, the six-block-long outdoor festival occupies a waterfront park in downtown Portland.

Multiple hot air balloons in the sky at the balloon festival.

Balloon festival — Readington, New Jersey

Over its 35 years, the New Jersey Festival of Ballooning (July 28-30) has ascended to become America's biggest summertime hot-air balloon festival, attracting about 50,000 balloon lovers per day. Besides pointing their cameras skyward to capture the spectacle of 100 sport and specialty balloons, which lift off twice daily at 6:45 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., there is a plethora of other entertainment: take balloon rides, enjoy live music (2017 headliners: Jake Miller & Bobby Clark and Chris Condel), take the kids to the carnival rides and family shows, admire Friday fireworks, and lace up for the Running With the Balloons 5K on Sunday. It all happens at Solberg Airport, a 90-minute drive from either New York's JFK Airport or Philadelphia International Airport.

Lobster rolls in Rockland, Maine

Lobster festival — Rockland, Maine

Billed as “five days of feasting and fun," the Maine Lobster Festival (August 2-6) is among America's most popular summer food festivals. The feasting involves 20,000 pounds of lobster, served to festival-goers and used in the cooking contest. The fun includes nonstop entertainment (Smash Mouth and Diamond Rio are headliners), a crate race (a daring dash over floating lobster crates), a Marine Experience tent (with a touch tank for kids), a Sea Goddess pageant, a beer-and-wine-tasting event, carnival rides, a Saturday parade and a Sunday road run (one-mile to 10K). Rockland is a one-hour, 40-minute drive up the coast from Portland International Jetport.

View of Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago

Music festivals — Chicago, Illinois

Two overlapping major outdoor music festivals span most of the summer in the Chicago area, so you can easily attend both on the same trip. Classical music fans adore the Grant Park Music Festival (through August 19), an 82-year tradition with several classical concerts each week in Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Chicago. Simultaneously in the northern suburb of Highland Park, the Ravinia Festival (through September 17) offers classical artists — including Joshua Bell, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and leading opera singers — as well as pop musicians ranging from Tony Bennett and Bonnie Raitt to Seal. The nightly outdoor concert series at 36-acre Ravinia Park is America's oldest, dating back to 1904.

If you go

United Airlines flies to all of these cities or cities nearby. Visit united.com or use the United app to plan your festival trip.

Entertainment for all

By The Hub team, August 04, 2020

Our Marketing Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity team and Bridge, our Business Resource Group (BRG) for people with all abilities, partnered together to test and provide feedback on our award-winning seatback inflight entertainment (IFE) system.

Aptly named "Entertainment for all," our new seatback IFE system offers the an extensive suite of accessibility features, allowing for unassisted use by people of all visual, hearing, mobility and language abilities.

"It's nice to know that I can get on a plane and pick my favorite entertainment to enjoy, just like every customer," said Accessibility Senior Analyst and Developer and Bridge Chief of Staff Ray C., who is blind.

"As a deaf employee, the closed captioning availability on board our aircraft is something I value greatly," added Information Technology Analyst Greg O. "The new IFE further cements United's visibility within the deaf community and elsewhere. It makes me proud to be an employee."

Accessibility features of the new IFE include a text-to-speech option, explore by touch, customizable text size, screen magnification, color correction and inversion modes, and alternative navigation options for those unable to swipe or use a handset. For hearing-impaired and non-English-speaking passengers, customization options provide the ability for customers to be served content and receive inflight notifications based on their preferences and settings —with closed captions, with subtitles or in the language of their choice from the 15 languages supported. Our "Entertainment for all" system won the Crystal Cabin Award in 2019, and recently, the Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Research and Development Award for Audio Description by the American Council of the Blind.

"This really showed the benefits of partnering with BRGs in helping us improve products and services for our customers and employees," said Inflight Entertainment and Connectivity Senior Manager Corinne S. "Even though we have been recognized with awards for our IFE accessibility features, we are not resting on our laurels but continuing to work towards improving the inflight entertainment experience for all of our customers to ensure entertainment is available for all."

Shaping an inclusive future with Special Olympics

By The Hub team, July 24, 2020

If your travels have taken you through Chicago O'Hare International Airport anytime since October 2019, you may have had a friendly, caring and jovial exchange with Daniel Smrokowski. Daniel is one of four Service Ambassadors thanks to our ongoing partnership with Special Olympics. This inaugural ambassador program aims to provide Special Olympic athletes employment opportunities within our operation, affording them a unique and meaningful career.

Since 2018, our partnership with Special Olympics has become one of United's most cherished relationships, going beyond the events we take part in and volunteer with. While the plane pull competitions, polar plunges, duck derbies and Special Olympics World Games and other events around the world are a big part of our involvement, the heart of this partnership lies with the athletes and individuals supported by Special Olympics. To advocate for their inclusion in every setting is one of our biggest honors, and we take great pride in the role we play in the organization's inclusion revolution.

Aiding in the success of Special Olympics' mission to create continuing opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, throughout the two-year partnership, United has volunteered over 10,500 hours and donated over $1.2 million in travel to the organization. The impact of this partnership is felt at every level, both at Special Olympics and within our own ranks.

"The Inclusion Revolution campaign, led by our athletes, aims to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. United Airlines has joined in our fight for inclusion, empowering our athletes with the skills needed to succeed and opportunities to contribute their abilities as leaders," said Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver. "United Airlines believes that people with intellectual disabilities should be perceived as they really are: independent, world-class athletes, students, employees, neighbors, travelers, and leaders who contribute to make this world a better place."

Our Service Ambassador program is just one of the many ways Special Olympics has impacted not only our employees, but also our customers. "I see every day how our Service Ambassadors connect with our customers the moment they walk into the airport lobby," said Senior Customer Service Supervisor Steve Suchorabski. "They provide a warm, welcoming smile ad assist in any way they can. To see these young adults hold positions that a society once told them they couldn't is truly the most heartwarming part of my job," Steve continued.

"The opportunity to be a part of the United family means everything to me," Daniel said. "I feel so much pride showing up to work in a Special Olympics/United co-branded uniform, working among such a loving and supportive community. The relationship between these two organizations is truly helping to shape my future while letting me use my gifts of communicating and helping others. Hopefully, I can spend my entire career at United," Daniel added.

In honor of Special Olympics' Global Week of Inclusion in July, we're asking our employees, customers and partners to sign a pledge to #ChooseToInclude at jointherevolution.org/pledge.

And be sure to check out Daniel's podcast The Special Chronicles.

United works with partners to send food to USDA food bank

By The Hub team, July 23, 2020

In collaboration with food-logistics company Commodity Forwarders Inc. (CFI), United moved nearly 190,000 pounds of fresh produce to Guam for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Coronavirus Farm Assistance Program. This new program was created to provide critical support to consumers impacted by the COVID-19 global pandemic.

A variety of fresh fruits were transported from Los Angeles (LAX) to Guam (GUM) on United's newly introduced, non-stop cargo-only flight – a route added to meet cargo demand during the COVID-19 crisis. The fresh food was repacked in 10-pound cases in Los Angeles, prepared for departure at CFI's LAX location, and flown to GUM by the United team. Through this beneficial partnership between United and CFI, the perishable goods were kept cool during every step of the process and distributed as part of the food bank program in Guam.

"Everyone on our team has worked relentlessly during the pandemic to get critical goods to where they are needed most. Establishing a comprehensive network of cargo-only flights have allowed us to keep the supply chain moving even while passenger flight capacity has been reduced," said Regional Senior Manager of Cargo Sales, Marco Vezjak. "Knowing that we are able to help during these difficult times – in this case the Guam community – is our biggest reward and greatest motivation to keep moving forward."

United is proud to play a role in maintaining the global food supply chain and helping people access the supplies they need. Since March 19, United has operated over 4,000 cargo-only flights, moving over 130 million pounds of cargo.

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