Head north to the 50th Annual Bayfield Apple Festival.
Autumn festival fare
Kathryn A. Kahler
Wisconsin is ablaze in glorious panoramas of oranges and reds that pique our visual senses. Traveler invites readers to satisfy another of your senses at festivals and fairs devoted to the state's bountiful harvests. From Bayfield to Door County to Grafton – and all points between – you'll find events celebrating apples, cranberries, cherries and pumpkins, to titillate your taste buds.
Wisconsin's love affair with apples kicks off October 1 at the 29th Annual Galesville Apple Affair. Area orchards sell apples and apple treats ranging from pie, caramel apples and Apple Normandy to apple cider and juice. Aromas abound, including those wafting from one big tent where a 10-foot apple pie bakes to flaky perfection. Visit Galesville Area Chamber of Commerce, call (608) 582-2868, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Head north October 7-9 for the 50th Annual Bayfield Apple Festival, one of Wisconsin's premier festivals, where more than 46 area orchards display and sell their delicacies. Come early for the apple pie contest and sampling on Thursday night, and stay for the grand parade down Rittenhouse Avenue on Sunday. Visit 50th Bayfield Apple Festival or call 1-800-447-4094.
Of course, you don't need to drive across the state to experience the crisp, juicy bite of a freshly picked apple. Visit the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association to find an orchard near you, then get out and get pickin'.
Tart and heart-healthy, the humble cranberry is the featured fruit of festivals in north central Wisconsin. Eagle River is host to Cranberry Fest, October 1-2, where the famous "World's Largest Cranberry Cheesecake" helps support the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Visit Eagle River, WI, Cranberry Fest, call 1-800-359-6315, or email email@example.com
About 100 miles to the west, on October 1, guests will celebrate the 32nd Annual Stone Lake Cranberry Festival. Thousands of pounds of bagged cranberries – fresh or dried – will be on sale, but get there early because they are usually gone before noon. Visit Stone Lake Cranberry Festival, Inc.
Besides the annual festivals, many cranberry marshes offer guided tours throughout October near Wisconsin Rapids, Warrens and Manitowish Waters. Take a self-guided drive along the 50-mile Cranberry Highway – that loops from Pittsville to Babcock to Wisconsin Rapids and back – or the 29-mile Cranberry Biking Trail. Visit Wisconsin State Cranberry Growers Association (715-423-2070); Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention and Visitor's Bureau (715-422-4650) for a map of the highway and information about tours; Manitowish Waters Chamber of Commerce (1-888-626-9877); or Visit Warrens.
A trip to Door County in autumn is always a good bet. Although the cherries were harvested a few months ago, you'll find them in just about any form at orchards and retail outlets across the county. Tart or sweet, you can get them frozen, canned, dried, juiced, jellied, covered in chocolate or made into wine, salsa, mustard, syrup or sausage. Whew!
Rounding out – or should we say anchoring – our list of festivals are those dedicated to that most beloved of gourds, the great pumpkin. At the Nekoosa GIANT Pumpkin Fest, October 1-2, you can witness the great pumpkin bakeoff and giant pumpkin drop, or partake in a pie eating contest. Visit Nekoosa GIANT Pumpkin Fest, call (715) 323-4533 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Fall Pumpkin Festival, October 7-8, at Paramount Plaza and Lime Kiln Park in Grafton offers pumpkin carving and scarecrow decorating contests, a Pumpkin Cross bike race, kids activities and food, of course. Visit Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce, or call (262) 375-5310.
The following weekend, October 15, head to the Fremont Pumpkin Festival for more of the same – but this one has outhouse races! Visit travelfremont.com, or call (920) 446-3236. Can't fit a festival into your schedule? Plan a family outing to a pumpkin patch. Visit Haunted Wisconsin to find a patch near home.
Speaking of Halloween, a number of state parks feature "fright hikes" and campground festivities leading up to the holiday. Events are scheduled at Kettle Moraine State Forest-Northern Unit (Campbellsport) on October 14 and 15; Kohler-Andrae State Park (Sheboygan) on October 15 and 29; Heritage Hill (Green Bay) on October 21, 22, 28 and 29; Mirror Lake State Park (Lake Delton), Richard Bong State Recreation Area (Kansasville), and Roche-A-Cri State Park (Adams-Friendship) on October 22; and Lapham Peak Unit, Kettle Moraine State Forest (Delafield) on October 28 and 29. Check out the Nature Programs and Events Calendar for more information and listings.
Kathryn A. Kahler is a staff writer for Wisconsin Natural Resources magazine.