Ohio knows how to celebrate the coming of autumn. All over the Buckeye State, there are harvest festivals, food festivals, and the annual Renaissance Festival. You'll find unique regional celebrations like the Sauerkraut Festival in Waynesville, the Apple Butter Fest in Grand Rapids, and the Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta. And for a bit of wacky fun, head to Vermillion for the annual Woollybear festival where they celebrate the furry caterpillars in a big way.
Head to Geneva each September to celebrate grapes in a big way. Approximately 1500 acres of grapes are grown in the area and are made into juices, jam, and wine. The kids can get their feet purple stomping grapes and everyone can get their faces messy at the pie-eating contest. Saturday brings a running race, the big parade with the bands, floats and fun, and an evening of live music. On Sunday there's the Grapette Duck Race on the river and more live music.
The free Pumpkin Festival in Circleville, south of Columbus, is Ohio's oldest festival. Founded in 1903, the event takes place each third Wednesday through Sunday in October. During the event, you'll find everything pumpkin including the Miss Pumpkin contest, the contest for the largest pumpkin, daily parades full of pumpkins and pumpkin floats and, of course, events featuring foods made with pumpkin.
Throughout the event, there will be more than 100,000 pounds of pumpkins and gourds on display. The festival draws more than 100,000 people per day to this town of 12,000.
The Ohio Renaissance Festival, Ohio's largest Medieval event, is held each year for eight weekends beginning Labor Day weekend in Harveysburg, Ohio (located between Cincinnati and Dayton). The Festival is held on a 30-acre permanent village, recreated in the style of Elizabethan England.
Activities include jousting tournaments, costumed roving performers, 12 stages of musical and theatrical entertainment like fire jugglers, an arts and crafts marketplace, traditional Elizabethan food and drink (can you eat that whole turkey leg?), and skill competitions.
The Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, located in historic downtown Marietta Ohio, began in 1976 and has been held each September ever since. The free, three-day festival draws more than 100,000 visitors to this river town and showcases more than 30 classic riverboats each year. Visitors gather on the Ohio River Levee on the corner of Front and Greene Streets in downtown Marietta to admire the riverboats as they come in from up and down the river.
Throughout the weekend you can enjoy the 5K run and walk, peruse the art show, cheer on the boats at the races, enjoy live music, and sit on the banks of the Ohio River to watch the Saturday evening fireworks choreographed to music.
The Ohio Sauerkraut Festival is held the second weekend in October annually in Waynesville, Ohio (equidistant from Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati). The festival, which was started in 1970, features meals where over 7 tons of sauerkraut is served, a huge arts and crafts festival with over 450 vendors and 30 food booths serving the fermented cabbage in many different styles.
Considered a top food festival in the United States, the Ohio Sauerkraut Festival draws over 350,000 visitors and vendors from as far afield as Hawaii and Florida. There's plenty to do with live entertainment, a cabbage recipe contest and, of course, eating sauerkraut dishes.
The free Country Apple Fest is held over two days in late September each year in Lebanon, Ohio, just west of Columbus. The event, held at the fairgrounds, features a host of hand-made craft vendors, most of them local, live entertainment, and a full range of apple products to eat.
Ohio's Apple Butter Fest is held the second Sunday of October each year in Grand Rapids, Ohio, just outside of Toledo. You'll find plenty of apple butter suitable for spreading on home-made toast (and demonstrations on how to make the sweet spread), a country craft marketplace, and living history exhibitions along the historic towpath. There are two stages on Front Street where live music plays throughout the event.
Military re-enactment groups include German mountain troops, WWII Army groups, and French Resistance civilians all in period uniform displaying their camps and weapons. Also, see pioneer demonstrations, savor a full range of apple products, and have fun with the kids along the beautiful Maumee River.
If you've traveled through the mid-west, it's likely you've heard the Bob Evans name. Bob Evans Restaurants is a chain of family-style restaurants headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, which owns and operates nearly 500 locations in 18 states.
In Rio Grande, you can visit Bob Evans Farms and enjoy the mid-October weekend farm festival. Bob Evans Farms got its start when Bob Evans began making sausage on his farm in 1948 to serve to customers in a small nearby diner.
Bob Evans Farm Festival attracts thousands over the weekend to enjoy live country entertainment, 100 artisans featuring traditional farm crafts, farm contests, delicious food, and children’s activities in a setting reminiscent of the farms of yesteryear.
Held annually the second weekend in October, the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival helps fund the preservation and maintenance of it's 19 covered bridges. This annual family-oriented festival is a great excuse to get out and tour the historic covered bridges which include both the shortest and longest covered bridges in the United States.
Enjoy the pancake breakfast, the parade complete with covered bridge floats, car show, kids activities, and tours of historic sites.
The wacky Woolybear Festival in Vermilion has been going on for almost 50 years. The Woollybear Festival, named after tiger moth caterpillars, is the largest one-day festival in the state of Ohio and originated with a TV weatherman and his friends coming up with the idea of a celebration built around using the woollybear to forecast what kind of winter might be ahead. The local elementary school decided to adopt the idea as a fundraiser.
Now, this festival celebrates the woolybear in a big way with a parade, a run, costume contests, woolybear merch tents, arts and crafts vendors, and festival food. Vermilion’s Woollybear Parade is one of the largest parades in the state of Ohio and lasts approximately 2 hours.