Written by: J. Vigotsky
With the official start of fall less than a month away, it’s about time to start planning trips to fall food festivals. Perfect for enjoying delicious food with your friends and family, America’s fall food festivals celebrate harvests and tradition while also featuring scenic autumn backdrops. Whether you look forward to attending several festivals or only have time for one, every food enthusiast deserves to experience the amazing atmosphere that accompanies these amazing celebrations. The following list contains just a few of America’s best 2017 fall food festivals.
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival – Laconia, NH – October 13th & 14th
Formerly known as the Keene Pumpkin Festival, this yearly gathering was founded in 1991 and routinely attracts over 40,000 attendees. With more than 80 food and craft vendors, festival-goers have plenty of fall food offerings to choose from. The festival also includes live bands, races, haunted attractions, games, and rides. But the event’s main attraction is the lighting of jack-o-lanterns.
After setting the Guinness World Record for number of lit jack-o-lanterns an astounding eight separate times, the Pumpkin Festival was finally dethroned in 2006 when a public jack-o-lantern lighting ceremony in Boston Common resulted in 29,952 jack-o-lanterns being lit. It wasn’t until 2013 that the Keene Pumpkin Festival recaptured its title by lighting an unfathomable 30,128 jack-o-lanterns.
While the festival took place in the college town of Keene, New Hampshire from 1991-2014, the Keene City Council voted not to welcome back the festival following riots caused by college students. As a result, the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival now calls Laconia home.
National Apple Harvest Festival – Adams County, PA – October 7-8 & 14-15, 8AM-6PM
There’s simply not enough time in a day—or even a weekend—for all the fun at the National Apple Harvest Festival. Held rain or shine in scenic South Central Pennsylvania, this celebration of all things apples features apple jellies, apple syrup, applesauce, candied apples, apple cider, apple pies, and more. If you’re looking to eat something a little more substantial than an apple-based dish, barbecue like chicken, pork, and ribeye steak sandwiches are also available.
Hay rides, petting zoos, and puppet shows provide fun for the whole family. With over 300 arts and crafts vendors, there’s something for everyone at the National Apple Harvest Festival. Car buffs will be glad to know a variety of antique automobiles will be on display.
Kids under 12 gain free admittance to the National Apple Harvest Festival, and adults are charged a very reasonable $10 fee. 89% of proceeds go to charitable funds, while the remaining 11% are kept in reserve for emergencies and to fund next year’s event.
Harvest on the Harbor – Portland, ME – October 19-22
The Harvest on the Harbor is a multi-day festival that features several unique eating experiences. With tickets to each event sold separately, the festival gives attendees the freedom to choose exactly what they want to attend. The ‘Flavors of Maine’ tasting event lets diners sample a variety of offerings from distinguished local chefs in a more formal environment, while the ‘Market on the Harbor’ experience lets participants casually taste food and sip drinks from an assortment of tables.
New for this year, the ‘Harvest Crawl’ is ideal for those who want to taste delicious food while also experiencing local bars and restaurants. Other events include the ‘Maine Lobster Chef of the Year,’ a professionally judged competition that allows you to taste some of the best lobster in Maine. And of course—the ‘Harvest Happy Hour,’ combines local food with spirits from members of the Maine Craft Distiller’s Guild.
Warrens Cranberry Festival – Warrens, Wisconsin – September 22-24
Kicking off festival season on the day of the fall equinox, the Warrens Cranberry Festival features food, shopping, contests, tours, parades, and more! The festivities go from 7AM-6PM each day, with the weekend culminating in a Sunday parade that features marching bands and drill teams. Food offerings include unique treats from about 100 different booths. Cranberry-related dishes include pancakes with cranberry syrup, cranberry cream puffs, deep-fried cranberries on sticks, and—of course—classic cranberries. And for those who aren’t crazy for cranberries, chicken, steak, burgers, pizza, and other classics are also available.
With a flea market, farm market, and arts & crafts section, the Warrens Cranberry Festival venders offer a wide variety of items. Marsh tours are another popular aspect of the festival. Lasting about one hour, each tour gives attendees an up-close look at how cranberries are grown. Since the tours are so popular, it’s advised that festival-goers purchase tickets when they go on sale at 7:30 AM Friday and Saturday. The Warrens Cranberry Festival is run by a non-profit organization that strives to improve the welfare of Warrens citizens by donating proceeds to a variety of local causes.
Sonoma County Harvest Fair – Santa Rosa, CA – October 6-8
Celebrating its 43rd year, the Sonoma County Harvest Fair celebrates is the largest regional wine competition in the U.S. Treating attendees to the local area’s best wine, beer, and cider, the fair features over 300 distinct wines—which compete against each other in a taste-off. Each wine is judged blind by some of the most renowned tasters in the country. Award winning wines are available for tasting by attendees at the Grand Harvest Tasting, while gold medal winning wines will be available for purchase at a discount.
For those who’d rather eat than drink, a food competition showcases some of Sonoma County’s best artisan chefs. Judged by a panel of blind tasters, award winning dishes are paired with drinks and served in the Tasting Pavilion throughout the 3-day festival. The schedule of events at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair also includes seminars, workshops, chef demonstrations, wine tasting seminars, and the Harvest Awards Dinner.
If you’re looking for a little more physical activity during your festival celebration, team up with a partner and vie for grape stomping supremacy. It’s $40 per team to enter the World Championship Grape Stomp, but the winning team receives a cool $1500. If you’re not feeling so confident about your team’s grape-stomping skills, focus your effort on creating uniforms. The best-dressed team always receives a special prize.
These are just a few of the larger, more popular national food festivals taking place this fall. If none of these events are within traveling distance, be sure to look out for local county fairs. While they might be smaller in scope, they still have the same celebratory atmosphere that makes the festivals on this list so popular.