By Liz Gray, FineLiving.com
Fall is finally here -- kids are back in school, leaves are starting to change and festival season is in full swing. These 10 classic festivals celebrate autumn's bounty with seasonal food and kitschy American traditions.
Kentucky Bourbon Festival
Bardstown, Ky., September 15-20, 2009
Since 1776, the people of Bardstown, Ky., have been making Bourbon. Each year, the "Bourbon Capital of the World" puts on a fall festival to celebrate the spirit. Sample bourbon and tour local distilleries, learn the ancient craft of barrel-making and learn to cook with the savory spirit. If you live for a good competition, try your hand at the cornhole or horseshoe classic. Or, head to the family fun area for interactive games, hot air balloons, train rides and more. Visit the Bourbon Festival Web site at www.kybourbonfestival.com for more information.
Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey, Calif., September 18-20, 2009
Held every September since 1958, the Monterey Jazz Festival is a three-day extravaganza dedicated to perpetuating jazz. This year's festival features jazz greats like Pete Seeger, the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Winton Marsalis, as well as panel discussions, workshops and an international array of food and shopping spread throughout the 20-acre Monterey Fairgrounds. Visit the Montery Jazz Festival Web site at www.monteryjazzfestival.org for more information.
Bristol Mum Festival
Bristol, Conn., September 25 to October 11, 2009
Chrysanthemums are the quintessential fall flower, and Bristol, Conn., is the self-proclaimed "Mum City U.S.A." The festival's main attraction is the plush six-acre carpet of brilliant color that graces Chippens Hill each fall. This year, more than 115 varieties of mums will be on display. Once you've seen the mums, the three-weekend festival offers a wide array of activities: an Oktoberfest the first weekend, an antique auto show the second weekend, and a "Mum-a-Thon" foot race the third. Though the festival officially ends in mid-October, you can see the mum display until November 1, when the flowers will be cut down to begin the growing cycle for next year. Visit the Mum Festival Web site at www.bristolmumfestival.org for more information.
Mountain State Forest Festival
Elkins, W.V., September 26 to October 4, 2009
The Mountain State Forest Festival, a staple on the fall festival circuit since 1930, is dedicated to the preservation and conservation of the state's trees and natural resources. More than 125,000 visitors flock to Elkins, W.V., each year to watch lumberjack-style events, like chainsaw carving and the "Strongest Man of the Forest" competition, and experience the state's beautiful fall foliage. For classic car lovers, there's also an antique, classic and street rod parade on October 3. Visit the Mountain State Forest Festival Web site at www.forestfestival.com for more information.
Sonoma Harvest Fair
Santa Rosa, Calif., October 2-4, 2009
Fall is grape harvest time in Sonoma Valley -- the perfect excuse for a fall festival. Taste the wares of more than 150 wineries, see chef demonstrations and taste local microbrews. Let the kids try their hand at agricultural activities, from cow-milking to bee-keeping to pumpkin-tossing. Then, try your hand (or rather, feet) in the World Championship Grape Stomp. If you and a partner can stomp grapes into juice faster than anyone else, you could win 4 plane tickets to anywhere, $1,000 dollars to spend on your trip, and, of course, the glory of being a world-champion. Visit the Sonoma Harvest Fair Web site at www.harvestfair.org for more information.
Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta
Albuquerque, N. M., October 3-11, 2009
For nine days in October, New Mexico skies are painted with hundreds of hot-air balloons, from the whimsical to the wild. Enjoy the colorful balloons from the ground, or charter a balloon for a bird's-eye view of Albuquerque. At dusk , look up for the "Balloon Glow" -- hundreds of balloons lit from within ascend at once, creating an amazing sight that's one of the festival's most popular events. Visit the Balloon Fiesta Web site at www.balloonfiesta.com for more information.
Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze
Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., October 3-4, 10-12, 16-18, 28-November 1
Halloween is a big deal in the Hudson River Valley, home to the infamous ledgend of Sleepy Hollow. The month-long Great Jack-o-Lantern Blaze features more than 4,000 hand-carved pumpkins lit up through the landscape of Van Cortlandt Manor, arranged in designs like snakes, spider webs, a colossal Pumpkin Henge and even a replica of Henry Hudson's ship Half Moon. Visit the Jack-o-Lantern Blaze Web site at www.hudsonvalley.org for more information.
St. Charles, Illinois, October 9-11, 2009
The heart of the Scarecrow Festival on the bank of the Chicago suburb's Fox River is -- you guessed it -- the scarecrows. Hundreds of people submit hand-crafted scarecrows decorated by theme, like the 175th anniversary of the city this year. Guests vote on the harvest art to see who will reign supreme. The festival also includes a craft show with more than 150 local artisans. Visit the Scarecrow Festival Web site at www.scarecrowfest.com for more information.
Feast of the Hunter's Moon
Lafayette, Indiana, October 10-11, 2009
The Feast of the Hunter's Moon is a re-creation of the annual fall gathering of the French and Native Americans that took place at Fort Ouiatenon, a fur-trading outpost in the mid-1700s. Take in traditional French and Native American music like fife and drum corps performances, see traditional military drills and demonstrations and learn how tools and baskets were made in the 18th century. Then, sample more than 50 French, Native American and English foods adapted from original recipes and served by costumed participants, like fry bread and buffalo. Visit the Feast of the Hunter's Moon Web site at www.tcha.mus.in.us/feast.htm for more information.
Florida Seafood Festival
Apalachicola, Florida, November 6-7, 2009
The Florida Seafood Festival celebrates all things aquatic for the 46th time this year. After the Miss Florida Seafood and King Retsyo, the festival's mascot, float in during the annual parade, it's time for competition galore. Watch competitive eaters battle it out to see who can consume the most oysters in 15 minutes -- sometimes as many as 300! Or, see who qualifies to go on to the national oyster-shucking competition. For some competition of your own, try your luck at the kid-friendly blue crab races, and don't forget to save room for fresh, delicious seafood. Visit the Florida Seafood Festival at www.floridaseafoodfestival.com for more information.
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