October Food Festivals

By: Jose Ralat Maldonado

This month, eyes begin to turn upward to see changing foliage and appetites begin to yearn for warmer and heartier fare. October’s food festivals certainly offer that, along with forays into the lighter dishes of previous seasons.

Jungle Jim’s Weekend of Fire, Fairfield, Ohio, Oct. 1-2: It’s not just you, it is (or will be) hot at Jungle Jim’s, a 1.5-acre zoologically themed international supermarket, during the Weekend of Fire, a fiery foods expo and celebration. Seventy-five vendors will be handing out samples of capsaicin-choked comestibles, including hot sauces, rubs and, yes, ice cream. New at the fifth-annual event will be BBQ Alley, for all your smoked-meat and fried-food needs. Eating contests will reign supreme, though, with bouts centered on mercury-bursting lollipops and horseradish in the Arena of Fire competition zone. Then, there’s the main event, the Defcon DeathMatch Wing Eating Contest. Is there any hotter way to kick off October?

Zwolle Tamale Fiesta, Zwolle, La., Oct. 6-8: If any town in the United States can claim a kaleidoscope of cultural heritage and throw a festival of any theme, it would be this Southern burg. Zwolle is the product of settlement and the intermarrying of people of American Indian, Spanish, French and Americans heritage from points east and bears the name of a town in the Netherlands. So, it’s no wonder the tamale -- this one a smaller, handy version of the traditional -- is dear to the hearts of the residents and the subject of a festival. Aside from a tamale-making contest and the coronation of fiesta royalty, the three-day event will include bogging, parades and fun for the whole family.

West Cape May Annual Lima Bean Festival, West Cape May, N.J., Oct. 8: Everyone’s favorite legume to loathe becomes the toast of the town for this one-day fete. The lima bean will adorn apparel, jewelry and knickknacks as well as filling ravenous bellies with lima bean soups, salads and barbecue -- whatever the culinary minds of southern Jersey can concoct. Attendees green from lima-bean exhaustion will certainly find vittles of other varieties. The Lima Bean King and Queen will ride in West Cape May’s Christmas Parade.

Chisholm Trail Days, Georgetown, Texas, Oct. 14-15: The Chisholm Trail cuts through Texas, north to railway depots in Kansas. At the northern terminals, cattle ranchers could sell cattle for shipment across the country. While the trailhead is much debated, its historical significance to Texas cannot be understated. Boomtowns sprung up along the route and with those towns came barbecue. Texas has no better BBQ region than central Texas, home of this two-day celebration of cowboys and the Lone Star State. Chuck wagon meals and BBQ dinners will be paired with cooking competitions and educational elements. Pony rides for peewee cowboys and cowgirls and a cattle drive will draw out proud Texans as much as the grub will.

Harvest on the Harbor, Portland, Maine, Oct. 20-22: Vacationland, as Maine is referred to during summer, doesn’t fall off the map with the advent of autumn. In Portland, boats still reel in daily catches and the city’s breweries continue to fill barrels, while residents consume both bounty and beverage. Never is this clearer than during Harvest on the Harbor. The fourth-annual celebration will once again host the Grand Tasting on the Harbor, bringing together Portland’s best and brightest, including those from NOSH Kitchen Bar, The Front Room and DiMillo’s On The Water. The Savory Samplings will allow for leisurely shopping and nibbling. Local chefs will compete (with the help of area farmers) for the honor of being named Best Lobster Chef and/or Best Farm to Table Chef.

Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, Sycamore, Ill., Oct. 26-30: If it’s October, it’s the start of pumpkin season. Born from one man’s display of decorated pumpkins in 1956 and officially founded in 1962 by that gentleman, Wally “Mr. Pumpkin” Thurow, in cooperation with several townsfolk, the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival begins with thousands of creatively decorated orange gourds placed on the courthouse lawn. The weighing of the giant pumpkins (a required part of any pumpkin fete) is a crowd-pleaser, as is the pie-eating contest. A house walk, a carnival, pancake breakfasts and a Sunday afternoon parade round out the festivities.

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