October Food Festivals

By: Jose Ralat Maldonado
apple cider and apples

As the temperatures aim for sweater weather, the possibility of sleeping with open windows and sipping from a warm bowl of freshly made pumpkin soup increase. But first try a bushel of apples and maybe some fried food — October is most definitely a month of mouth-stuffing fall fun.

Kentucky Apple Festival, Paintsville, Ky., Oct. 5-6: For half a century, this Johnson County hootenanny has warmed the bellies of locals and visitors alike. The delicacy here is the tiger ear, a fried apple pie (try saying that without a Southern drawl). Purveyors offering those treats will be joined by dozens of other concessionaires and sit alongside arts and crafts stalls. And who can forget the pageants, corn hole tournament and a parade of Golden Delicious proportions? Visitors to this festival will get to the core of the phrase, as American as apple pie.

Cider Days, Lakewood, Colo., Oct. 6-7: Travel from the South to the Rocky Mountain West and turn Johnny’s Appleseed's famous fruit into a favorite fall and winter tipple. Aside from public cider pressings by the local rotary club, the festival’s itinerary includes tractor pulls, machinery displays, mule-drawn wagon rides to the petting zoo and tours of the Lakewood Heritage Center 20th Century Museum. Of course, there will also be an apple baking competition. This is as small-town community a festival can get. Frankly, the continued existence of such celebrations is as refreshing as cider.

New York City Wine & Food Festival, New York, Oct. 11-14: This highfalutin affair hosted by everyone’s favorite food channel and including everyone’s favorite food and television personalities — if we do say so ourselves — is the first of this month’s mega festivals. The other, the Great American Beer Festival (Oct. 11–13) in Denver is sold out. So you’ll have to console yourself with cooking demonstrations, exclusive dinners (like the Mile End Shabbat Dinner), as well as seminars with Nathan Myrhvold, author of Modernist Cuisine and Giada De Laurentiis. There are the not-to-be missed tastings where attendees will have the opportunity to take a bite out of the Big Apple and catch a glimpse of celebrities, among them Andrew Zimmern, Alex Guarnaschelli and Stanley Tucci. Yes, that Stanley Tucci. Plus, there will be plenty of family-and kid-friendly events. There’s a place for everyone at Food Network’s New York City Wine & Food Festival.

Arizona State Fair, Phoenix, Oct. 12-Nov. 4: Thoughts of rechristening state fairs as fried-food fiascos should not be discounted. We’re looking at you, State Fair of Texas and your Big Tex Choice Awards. Thankfully, this shindig includes more than a heart-busting smorgasbord. The Arizona State Fair will play host to the A2Z Txt Frnzy Texting Contest, frozen T-shirt contests and flying pig races, as well as chainsaw carving demonstrations. Like all self-respecting festivals, this one includes competitions. Among the scheduled food-themed bouts are a pie-eating contest, several bake-offs and a salsa championship. New this year will be the giant creepy crawlers of Behemoth Bugland and zip line rides. But yes, there will be fried foods, too, including fried watermelon.

Outer Banks Seafood Festival, Nags Head, N.C., Oct. 20: Every food fete needs to start somewhere, and after more than a year of planning, Currituck, Dare, Hyde and Tyrrell Counties, which comprise North Carolina’s Outer Banks, are ready to celebrate — and by extension protect — its fishing legacy. A bounty of local seafood restaurants will be serving their catches of the day. Area musicians, like the First Flight High School Jazz Band, will sing more than shanties. And plenty of activities will keep families — and children — busy and well fed.

Sycamore Pumpkin Festival, Sycamore, Ill., Oct. 23-28: 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, a Sunday afternoon parade and a costume contest round out the festivities.

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