Courtesy Oktoberfest Zinzinnati in Ohio
En español | For those in the temperate climates of North America, the cool crisp air and smell of burning leaves that usher in September can mean only one thing — fall harvest festivals. No matter where you live in the United States, you’re sure to be an hour or two from some sort of autumn celebration involving pumpkins, hayrides and apple cider. But not all harvest festivals are created equal. Below are six that stand out from the rest.
Cranberry Harvest Celebration, Massachusetts
Falling on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7-8 in 2017, the 14th annual celebration of America’s original superfruit near Cape Cod is scheduled to coincide with the annual harvest in New England. Seeing the harvest, when farmers flood their fields and corral the floating crimson berries with large nets before loading them into trucks, is alone worth the trip to Massachusetts cranberry country. In addition to the spectacle, though, this fair features cooking demonstrations, tents full of crafts, paddleboat rides in the bogs, and food and music for all tastes. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for seniors and members of the military.
SONOMA COUNTY HARVEST FAIR
Sonoma County Harvest Fair, California
Festival lovers who want to add some kick to their annual outing will want to head straight to the source for this celebration of the annual grape harvest and the wine it bestows on us. Now in its 43rd year, the festival lures people from across the country to the epicenter of California Wine Country. The highlight is the Grand Tasting Pavilion, where more than 100 vintners showcase the best they have to offer. But the festival is not just about alcohol. Dozens of eateries from the region take part (in addition to local arts and crafts purveyors), making the whole experience more feast than party. Gate admission to the festival is $5 and the tastings range from $5 for a Port and Chocolate experience to $65 for the Grand Tasting. The 2017 dates are Oct. 6-8 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa, Calif.
Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, Ohio
A list of harvest festivals without an Oktoberfest on it is like a harvest without a crop. This annual event is the largest American Oktoberfest out there, attracting upwards of half a million visitors to its celebration of southwest Ohio’s German heritage. Omnivores at the event polish off more than 80,000 pounds of bratwurst, 24,000 potato pancakes, 3,600 pounds of sauerkraut. Not to be missed is the Running of the Wieners that kicks off the festival, when 100 dachshunds dressed as hot dogs compete for the top prize. The festival falls on Sept. 15-17 and admission to most events is free.
North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival, North Carolina
Called the “wrinkly nut” by the Spanish explorers who found them in the Americas, pecans are one of the most versatile nuts out there. And America is the source of almost 95 percent of the world’s supply. North Carolinians celebrate the annual harvest with a shindig in Whiteville that is Southern to the core, with beauty contests, car shows, home tours and a fancy dress ball. The 2017 festival is on Nov. 4-5 and most events are free.
Trailing of the Sheep Festival, Idaho
What’s not to love about thousands of braying sheep being paraded down the streets of a mountain town in the crisp autumn air? This annual festival (Oct. 4-8) in Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho, is as much a celebration of the American West as it is of all things ovine. In addition to the Sheep Parade down Main Street, there are storytelling venues, a folklife fair, sheep dog trials, a sheepherders’ ball and cooking classes for mutton lovers from both near and far.
Santa Fe Wine and Chile Festival, New Mexico
This adults-only party in the mountains of New Mexico takes place Sept. 27 to Oct. 1 in 2017 and is now in its 27th year. Award-winning chefs from across the country team up with Santa Fe’s finest restaurateurs and 100 local wineries for five days of luncheons, cooking seminars, wine tastings and a film festival featuring movies about, of course, food and wine. To work off all those calories, there’s also a 75-mile Gran Fondo Bike Ride through several historic villages. Tickets for the tastings range from $20 to $125, but most fall into the $75 to $85 range.