Every year we pile in the car and drive up to our favorite pumpkin farm to do the corn maze – in the dark. Armed with flashlights, we weave through the sea of stalks trying to find our way out. Of course, my sons enjoy yelling such things as “Hey mom, look! A snake!” Just so they can laugh at my reaction. Every dead end brings laughs, groans, and a few accusations. “It was your idea to turn left!” But eventually, we find our way out and breathe a collective sigh of relief. Afterwards, we hop on a cart full of hay and a tractor takes us out to an open field lit with several bonfires. We purchase a “s’mores” kit (marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers) and grab some sticks and enjoy the cool evening. And yes, we usually leave with a collection of pumpkins, Indian corn, and gourds.
Fall is a great time to get out and enjoy your community, build traditions, and have fun. Communities come alive this time of year with fall festivals, art shows, parades, and costume contests. It’s the time of year when it’s perfectly okay to gorge (ah, let the kids gorge) on candy. Pumpkin pie, spiced apple cider, and chilly nights by the fire pit telling ghost stories become the norm.
Of course, some fall festivities are a little out of the norm. If you live near Mystic, Connecticut, you might want to check out the annual Chowderfest. It is music, tug boats, a brisk seaside, and a hot bowl of clam chowder. Perhaps you prefer banjos and outhouse races – if so, check out Independence, Virginia’s annual Fall Mountain Foliage Festival and Grand Privy Race. If you enjoy handcrafted items, then the Hartslog Festival in Alexandria, Pennsylvania is for you – people line the streets with handmade items to sell. Hailey, Idaho's Trailing of the Sheep Festival offers up bagpipes and drums, handcrafted items made from wool, and Peruvian musicians and dancers.
There’s something uniquely fall about corn mazes. Stalks stretching 10 feet in the air form leafy green walls that, on entrance, appear deceptively benign. And no matter how many times you’ve done it in the past, the maze is different every year, adding to the challenge. The largest maze, listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, is the Dixon Corn Maze in Dixon, California. If the wrong turns, dead ends, and circling paths aren’t enough of a challenge for you, some mazes (such as Tom’s Maze in Germantown, Ohio) add a little something extra – such as puzzles. Tom’s Maze has 12 puzzle pieces guests must collect throughout the maze. If you like the idea of a maze but would rather see it from above, Kersey Valley Maize Adventure in High Point, North Carolina features a zip line – be sure to wave at the lost visitors in the maze below you.
Fall festivals and corn mazes are great, but don’t forget the brats! Oktoberfest celebrations are gearing up, so get ready for beer, bratwurst, music, and fun. Frankenmuth, Michigan has the only Oktoberfest outside of Germany sanctioned by Munich. It has been taking place for over 20 years. Of course, living in North Georgia, there’s only one place to go during Oktoberfest – Alpine Helen, Georgia. Dance the polka, listen to live music, drink German beer – and be surrounded by the gorgeous
Blue Ridge Mountains. The Fremont Oktoberfest near Seattle, Washington brings just a hint of spooky in with their Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving Contest. And, they set aside one day for Dogtoberfest, complete with a 5K race for you and your dog, games, and contests.
Don’t less this season of fall color, chilly air, and jack-o’-lanterns pass you by! Put on your lederhosen, grab your pumpkin-carving kit, find a compass, and enjoy the autumn celebrations!