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What Is a Fall Festival?

By Cynde Gregory
Updated: May 23, 2024

Across the country, Americans love festivals. Arts festivals, music fests, food celebrations — the list goes on. From a small village to the biggest metropolis, autumn is celebrated with festivals. The themes and styles found in a local fall festival vary widely depending in large part upon the region, culture, and typical autumnal weather.

Often, a fall festival pays homage to Halloween, either as part of the celebration or as a reason for it. Haunted houses and ghostly fetes abound during the month of October. These fall festivals might feature people dressed as spooks, all manner of mechanical ghoulishness, and settings that have been transformed via cotton batting and black paint into spiderwebs and tombs.

Fall festivals that place food front and center might offer a pie eating contest with apple and pumpkin pies as the runaway favorites. Other typical autumn nibbles include apple fritters, apple butter, and apple cider. In fact, many fall festivals, especially in the northern states, are dedicated to the apple in all its glorious manifestations.

Apple bobbing and hay rides in other fall festivals give the youngsters of today a glimpse of what life was like in the long ago. It’s not unusual to find a fiddler or two and a banjo playing favorite old-time mountain tunes at fall festivals as well. In colder climes, a fall festival might end with a huge bonfire around which friends, neighbors, and strangers huddle, gazing into the mesmerizing, dancing flames.

Spring is the season of rebirth and fertility, and fall is when it’s time to prepare for hibernation. Common fall festival décor focuses on dried corn stalks, stacks of gourds, and that old standby, the carved pumpkin. Some fall festivals feed the masses with foods that warm the heart, like chili and cornbread.

While there are thousands of fall festivals spread across the nation that celebrate the bounty and range of the harvest, others hold a single local product in highest regard. Floresville, Texas’s, famous Peanut Festival glories in all the things that little nut can do. Many Vermont festivals sing the praises of maple syrup and its products, such as candies and recipes that use it. Seafaring villages along the Atlantic Coast seize the fall as a time to celebrate oysters.

Craftspeople and artists, those mainstays of festivals everywhere, are out in droves at fall festivals from one end of the country to another. After the last of the fall fetes, their only major opportunity to sell their wares might be an indoor craft sale for the winter gift-giving season. Fall festivals are great opportunities for families and friends to enjoy the last of the warm weather before winter sets in.

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Discussion Comments
By Wisedly33 — On Sep 24, 2014

I live within easy driving distance of a great fall/bluegrass music festival. It's on a college campus and the proceeds benefit the school. They have great music and all the student organizations sell concessions for their clubs. The food is always awesome!

The college also insists on real handcrafts, not cheap junk someone bought and is trying to get rid of. As a result, you can find handmade musical instruments, quilts, jewelry and many other items. The arts and crafts are always a highlight.

The festival is the first weekend in October and it's always one of the best parts of my fall season! The weather is usually pretty and it's a wonderful family atmosphere, too.

By Scrbblchick — On Sep 23, 2014

Yeah, we had to start calling the Halloween carnival a "fall festival" at my daughter's school. I have no idea why. It's the same idea, though. There are a lot of games, pumpkin decorating contests, a bake sale, face painting, costume contests, fall-themed concessions like apple cider and caramel apples and a hayride.

The middle schoolers would get together at dusk and have a marshmallow roast. We can't tell ghost stories anymore, though. Might scare somebody. Some people are just too darn sensitive. Still a fall festival is fun, no matter what name you give it.

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