Fall food festivals worth tasting

Conde Nast Traveler

(Photo: Mystic Seaport Chowder Days)



Autumn’s bounty means that cities across the country will celebrate local crops with a variety of food festivals. We’ve found seven where you can sample regional delicacies, from plump oysters to a gooey sandwich staple.

Mystic Seaport Chowder Days
Mystic, Conn.


You probably know this Connecticut town from the old Julia Roberts flick Mystic Pizza, but the picturesque town, located on the Mystic River, has a long nautical tradition. This museum, founded in 1929, maintains that culture with exhibits, tall ships, and a 19th-century village that comes with an oyster house and a lobster shack. Sample soul-warming fare during the Seaport’s chowder festival, which will feature several varieties of the New England dish prepared by Coastal Gourmet, a local catering company. Other regional delicacies to try include fried dough sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, a sweet treat found throughout Connecticut. Oct. 6–8

(Photo: Cranberry Harvest Celebration)


Cranberry Harvest Celebration
Wareham, Mass.


The northeast isn’t just noteworthy for its seafood: Massachusetts is one of the largest producers of cranberries in the country, with more than 400 growers located in the state. The Cape Cod Cranberry Growers’ Association fetes this tradition each year with this festival celebrating the humble fruit, one of the few that’s native to the United States. Food vendors will offer up baked goods that incorporate the tart berry, while growers in the area will offer fresh cranberries for sale. Plus, you can take a peek at local bogs to see how the fruit is grown, or take a paddleboat out on nearby Tihonet Pond. Oct. 6–7


(Photo: Fresh Hop Ale Festival)


2012 Fresh Hop Ale Festival
Yakima, Wash.

Washington state’s Yakima Valley might just be a beer nerd’s idea of heaven: more than 70 percent of the hops grown in the U.S. come from the region (including Casecade hops, an especially popular variety used in beers like Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale). The fest celebrates the harvest with a sampling of suds from breweries in Washington and beyond: Among the producers scheduled to serve suds this year are Seattle’s Georgetown Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.'s Lagunitas, and the region’s own Yakima Craft Brewing Company. (And yes, this fest is only for patrons 21 and older.) Home brewers can also get into the act by submitting a pale ale or IPA for the Fresh Hop Ale competition. Oct. 6

(Photo: Wellfleet OysterFest)


Wellfleet OysterFest
Wellfleet, Mass.


This tiny town near Cape Cod Bay is famous for its namesake oysters, which are exported to restaurants throughout the country. Each October, the fishing village celebrates its local bounty with this fair, which began in 2001. The briny bivalves are the main attraction: You’ll find oysters and clams served in a variety of ways, including at raw bar stations and in chowders, along with local beers and wines. You can also see how these babies are harvested during the annual shucking contest, which awards $1,000 to whomever can shuck 24 oysters the quickest. (Last year’s winner, Camden Holland, completed the task in two minutes and 28 seconds.) Oct. 13–14

(Related: Presidential cookie bake-off)

(Photo: Barbecue Festival)


29th Annual Barbecue Festival
Lexington, N.C.


Meat-lovers across the country make the pilgrimage to Lexington for this barbecue bonanza, held in the self-proclaimed “barbecue capital of the world.” Vendors at the festival specialize in North Carolina-style ‘cue, in which slow-roasted pork shoulder is served with a vinegary “dip,” as opposed to a thicker, sticky sauce. (And there’ll be plenty of it—last year, more than 15,000 pounds of meat was gobbled up.) But the food isn’t the only attraction here: The fest also features an antique car show, a pig-themed sand-sculpting contest, and—if you don’t mind seeing your food in its natural state—pig races along a “hogway speedway.” Oct. 27

(Photo: Courtesy California Avocado Festival)


California Avocado Festival
Carpinteria, Calif.


The Golden State is one of the largest producers of avocados in the country, and a big portion of that crop is grown in Santa Barbara County (where the town of Carpinteria is located). Since its inception in 1986, this autumn fair has celebrated the buttery fruit with a weekend’s worth of events and activities, including live music performances and tastings of different avocado-inspired nibbles. A highlight: the annual guacamole contest, which pits amateur dip-makers against one another to crown the best recipe. You can also gawk at enormous varieties of the fruit at the “largest avocado by weight” contest. Oct. 5–7

(Photo: Bridgeville Apple-Scrapple Festival)


Bridgeville Apple-Scrapple Festival
Bridgeville, Del.


Held since 1992, this weekend-long bash celebrates two of Bridgeville’s biggest local producers: The RAPA Scrapple company (named for its founder, Ralph and Paul Adams), and T.S. Smith and Sons, an orchard that opened in 1907. (For the uninitiated, scrapple is a breakfast food that’s big in the mid-Atlantic—the porky dish, which uses various bits of offal, was nose-to-tail long before that term became popular with foodies.)

Nearly 50 vendors will serve grub that incorporates the fest’s namesake specialties, including apple dumplings and scrapple sandwiches. You can also check out contests that utilize the foods: Local politicians will compete in a scrapple-throwing contest to see who can hurl a chunk of meat the furthest, while amateur chefs will compete in an apple-baking contest. Oct. 12–13

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