Saturday, October 4, 2014

Autumn Festivals And Fall Fun

While our friends to the south are coming out of winter into spring, here in the Northern Hemisphere, it's the beginning of autumn. There are some parts of the country where summer temperatures linger, but other locations have cooler weather—that crisp autumn feel to the air. Except for more northerly locations and some higher elevations, the first week of October is still a little early for the leaves to change to their fall colors. But that time is just around the corner.

October brings us all types of Fall Festivals across the country, some traditional for the season and others can be considered more on the weird but fun side. Here's a cross-section selection of ten festivals (in no particular order), both traditional of the season and those a little more far out.

National Apple Harvest Festival
Arendtsville, Pennsylvania
October is harvest time for apples. In a pure celebration of autumn, the tiny Pennsylvania towns of Arendtsville and Biglerville (outside of Gettysburg) come together to pay tribute to that fine autumn fruit at the annual National Apple Harvest Festival. It's a true apple celebration—visitors can go apple-bobbing, drink fresh-pressed cider, gobble up apple dumplings and apple sauce, and, of course, munch on fresh apples. Held during the first two weekends in October, the festival also features craftspeople, square dancing, Native American dancers and live music.

Trailing of the Sheep Festival
Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho
In the past century, sheep have often outnumbered humans in Idaho. This festival (about three hours east of Boise) observes the annual sheep migration to the southern part of the state. The big event of the festival is Sunday's sheep parade, where you can follow 1,500 sheep down Ketchum's Main Street. On other days of the festival, you can watch the Championship Sheepdog Trials, enjoy lamb barbecue, and hear music from sheep-loving areas of the world such as Peru, Poland and the Basque region. There are demonstrations of soap-making and wool-spinning, and various crafts.

Harvest On The Harbor
Portland, Maine
A scenic trip to Maine in the fall is a no-brainer. October is the peak of New England's leaf peeping season. Maine's four-day Harvest On The Hudson Festival in mid-October lures more than 5,000 people up to Portland's shores to enjoy a celebration of Maine's finest local foods, top chefs and other Maine-made products such as beers and wines. A variety of tastings are held: One features local foods from more than 160 chefs, wineries, distilleries and breweries, another showcases a barbecue extravaganza featuring grill masters, as well as local beers and live music.

Fire Ant Festival
Marshall, Texas
Marshall is located about two hours east of Dallas and claims to be the birthplace of boogie-woogie music. It's also home to plenty of pesky fire ants. The locals have embraced both at this annual festival, which features a lot of live music as well as a Fire Ant 5K, a cyclist-friendly Tour de Fire Ant, a costumed ant-filled parade and a kids dancing contest.

German Village Oktoberfest
Columbus, Ohio
If you weren't able to make it to Munich for the celebration of beer more commonly known as Oktoberfest, then the Columbus Oktoberfest in Columbus, Ohio offers its own memorable experience. The festival takes place in a 100,000-square-foot pavilion, complete with covered spaces for consuming a selection of brews, stages for live music, and dance floors for kicking up your heels and doing the traditional polka. While beer might be one of the festival's highlights, it certainly isn’t the only thing the festival has to offer. Oktoberfest also features dozens of craftspeople selling their wares as well as a parade and German food favorites such as frankfurters with sauerkraut and German potato salad.

Wife Carrying Championship
Bethel, Maine at the Sunday River Ski Resort
The sport of "wife carrying" began in Finland, with vaguely barbaric legends revolving around it. The thrill of the race crossed the ocean to the U.S. in 1999. The North American Championship is held each year at this ski resort, about an hour from Portland, Maine. Winners take home their wife's weight in beer and five times her weight in cash. It might be more fun to watch than to participate. Entries are limited to 50.

Wellfleet OysterFest
Wellfleet, Massachusetts
The two-day Wellfleet OysterFest celebrates the Cape Cod town's famed shellfish with shucking competitions, tastings and cooking demonstrations. The town of Wellfleet has earned international fame for its oysters. During the festival, shellfishermen present their wares—briny oysters and clams, fresh seafood chowders and stuffed clams. Despite its name, OysterFest isn't only about oysters. The event also features artisans selling handmade jewelry and other crafts. The highlight of the festival is the shuck-off. Competitors are given twenty-four oysters to shuck, and they are graded on both speed and precision. Deductions are made for broken shells, blood from sliced fingers and mutilated oysters. The festival's top shucker was able to slice through his oysters in less than two minutes.

Emma Crawford Coffin Races and Parade
Manitou Springs, Colorado)
Back in 1889, Emma Crawford moved to this town outside Colorado Springs to help her tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the move didn't help and she died. About forty years later, her poorly-buried coffin become unearthed and slid down a mountain into a canyon. Since 1994, the town has held a ghoulish parade in her honor on the weekend before Halloween. Following the parade there's the race of souped-up coffins, carried by sprinting pall-bearers, and holding costumed Emmas sitting inside.

Wine and Chile Fiesta
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe Wine and Chile Fiesta isn't as spicy as it sounds. The five-day autumn festival is a celebration of the deep-rooted traditions of Santa Fe cuisine, which does involve a lot of chiles. Santa Fe has been gaining attention as one of the best small-town culinary destinations in America, and the autumn festival highlights the best of the best. The Wine and Chile Fiesta features Santa Fe's seventy-five best restaurants along with ninety national wineries providing cooking demonstrations, wine and food tastings, special luncheons and dinners.

Coarsegold Tarantula Awareness Festival
Coarsegold, California
Coarsegold is aptly names, it's located in the Sierra foothills in California gold rush country, near Yosemite National Park. As to the festival, we're aware of tarantulas, but how many of us truly appreciate them? Here's an opportunity to watch the hairy spiders race from a safe distance. Festivities include a Tarantula Poem Contest, a Scream-Off and a Hairy Leg Contest for both gentlemen and ladies. There's also a Trick-or-Treat parade for kids, and a bubble-gum-blowing contest.

If none of these Fall Festivals grab your attention, there are plenty more to choose from—just Google fall festivals and pick one that suits you.


JoAnne Myers said...

Very interesting article. The German Village is the one I have been to. Thank you

Shawna Delacorte said...

JoAnne: I've never been to an Oktoberfest celebration, but they sound like a lot of fun.

Thanks for your comment.