It's a fine time to get outside before the snow comes storming down, and whether you're into pumpkins, nature, cute woollybears or family fun, there's a festival or special event for you.
The Woollybear Festival (Vermilion, Oct. 6), which turns 42 this year, has grown into Ohio's largest one-day festival. The idea grew out of weatherman Dick Goddard popularizing the folklore notion that the brightly colored caterpillar's fur can predict the severity of the coming winter. Now the town squeezes more and more events into the festival each year, mostly because Dick Goddard is the best. Think Groundhog Day, only bigger.
Not that you could miss it, but be sure to catch the Woollybear Parade, ranked as one of Ohio's largest. It includes more than 15 marching bands with nearly 2,000 musicians, kids and pets on hay wagons, vintage cars, floats, clowns and festival queens. End the day with the Woollybear 500 Caterpillar Race finals, and of course the official Woollybear Winter Weather Prediction, the reason for the season.
Now in its 44rd year, the Huntsburg Pumpkin Festival (Oct. 5 & 6) has become popular for its free family days. Both days start with a pancake breakfast in the town hall offering all-you-can-eat portions of pancakes, Belgian waffles, sausage, orange juice, maple syrup, and hot beverages. And a pumpkin ride is on tap for Sunday.
If you were to stereotype fall, you would get the Corn and Pumpkin Harvest at Lake Metroparks Farmpark (Kirtland, Oct. 12 & 13). There will be opportunities to craft cornhusk dolls and harvest and decorate pumpkins. You can get lost in a three-acre corn maze, stroll through the kid-friendly hay maze, or wander around the pumpkin patch. Satisfy your sweet tooth with some corn treats, pumpkin sweet potato soup, apple-pressed cider, and fresh apple butter. And of course there are pony rides, because you're never too old for a pony.
Stretched over two weekends (Oct. 12 &13, 19 & 20), the Harvest Festival at Hale Farm & Village has become a Cuyahoga Valley tradition. In the peak of the season, watch food be prepared for winter while utilizing the farm equipment to press apple cider, grind and shell corn, and make your own apple butter. Grab some old-fashioned popcorn and walk the barnyards full of chicken, oxen, hogs, and sheep. You can also join in the harvest activities of pumpkin painting and wagon rides, or jump in the haystacks.
Island Oktoberfest is just what the name suggests, Put-in-Bay's 20th annual fall beer fest (Oct. 12 & 13). But it's not just for adults; it's a family weekend that islanders refer to as "homecoming." Local vendors will be serving up tasty samples from the Heineman Winery, established on the island in 1888. Restaurants will be ready with plenty of German specialties, including sauerbraten, spaetzle, brats, German potato salad, potato pancakes, apple dumplings, German chocolate cake, wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, and sausage.
In Leaf Country, USA, otherwise known as Bainbridge, what kind of celebration would you expect other than the Fall Festival of Leaves? Held annually on the third weekend of October (18-20 this year), the weekend is packed with arts and crafts, entertainment, flea markets, midways, parades, tractor pulls, and more. The Queen of Paint Valley High will be crowned, a pet show will include both live and stuffed animals. On Sunday, there's a parade.
The most iconic fall food is the focus of Pumpkin Village at Mapleside Farms in Brunswick. There, you can take a tour on the Moo-Lar Express, a cow-themed tractor ride, or a traditional hayride. Kids can jump on a 70-foot pillow in Jump Park, scramble across rope in the Spider Web, climb the Rattlesnake Mountain wall, and crawl through the Snake Belly Tunnel into clubhouses. There's a seven-acre corn maze, which you can experience in the dark on Friday and Saturday nights —so bring a flashlight, or rent one there. And of course, there's the raison d'etre for the festival—a 25-acre pumpkin patch you can wander through to check out all 82 of the known varieties of pumpkin, and pick out some to carve and decorate.