Celebrate the Season!

  • Visit North Central

The lazy, hazy days of summer are winding down, and the crisp, invigorating weeks of winter lie ahead. As autumn arrives in all its brilliant glory, the agricultural past and recreational present combine to make Johnny Appleseed Country a daily delight.

As you travel through North Central Massachusetts, you can see scores of active farms and orchards, providing both food and entertainment for today’s residents and visitors. You can swing by a farmstand to pick up some fresh veggies for your dinner table, or spend a day picking shiny red, green, even golden apples in a sunny hilltop orchard.

But fall is also a time for folks to gather together to celebrate this bounty — and the region provides weeks of festivals to make that possible!

Tracing Our Roots

There’s no surer place to see the area’s agricultural roots than at the Sterling Fair —a two and a half day, family oriented, community, agricultural fair with the emphasis on agriculture and education. The Sterling Fair features rides, horse pulls, oxen pulls, tractor pulls, helicopter rides, antique engine and machinery show, livestock shows, food, entertainment and more!

The fair begins on Friday, September 8, with a fun-packed midway — fun, food, games, thrilling rides (like the iconic Ferris wheel), all designed to get you in a festive mood. But don’t let the bright lights, chills and thrills fool you. This is a weekend packed with everything from a kids’ frog jumping contest and women’s skillet-tossing contest to an antique tractor and engine show! Horse and oxen pulls. Baked goods and quilting contests. Vegetable and gourd decorating shows. And music, music, music! Learn more about this weekend-long event at sterlingfair.org.

Tons of Pumpkins

If you love pumpkins — and who doesn’t, at this time of year! — be sure to swing by the Ashby Pumpkin Festival on the Ashby Town Common on September 30. It’s a celebration of that popular fall favorite complete with food, music, and even a tractor parade!

Of course, you can find lots of pumpkins at local farms and fairs — pumpkins to make into pies; tiny pumpkins to decorate your dinner table; orange (and white!), round, and oval pumpkins to carve into Halloween jack-o-lanterns.

But wait! You haven’t seen pumpkins until you’ve visited the Pumpkin Weigh-In on Columbus Day weekend at the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston. These are really, really, really big pumpkins. These babies can tip the scales at over a thousand pounds!

This annual event celebrating these giant gourds, and the region’s agricultural history, is planned for Sunday, October 8 this year. It’s a sight you won’t want to miss!

A Fragrant Fest

The sight of those pumpkins may astound you, but if you want a really big impact on your senses, visit the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival — “The Festival that Stinks”— in Orange on September 30 and October 1. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know (and more!) about this fragrant bulb … and about sustainable living, too! Garlic definitely takes center stage here, but there are also artisans, displays of electric vehicles, speakers about environmental topics, and, of course, music and fun! See the story on page 8 of this issue of The Guide to learn more about this fabulously fragrant festival.

The Apple of Your Eye

Did you know that the Macoun is considered the “cream of the crop” at Sholan Farms, the last working orchard in Johnny Appleseed’s home town? Run by a dedicated group of volunteers, Sholan Farms is a great spot to visit year-round — but it really shines in late summer and early fall, when apple lovers flock to the orchard and farm stand.

Of course, apple picking season is a reason to celebrate everything apple! Plan to visit this hilltop orchard overlooking the city on September 16 and 17, for Honeycrisp Weekend, and September 23 and 24 for Cream of the Crop Weekend, and be sure to come back on October 7 for the Scarecrows in the Orchard Harvest Festival!

Love mountain views? Visit Wachusett Mountain Ski Area’s two-weekend long AppleFest, featuring “everything apple,” including a pie-eating contest, along with music, clowns, inflatables, food trucks and more!

And speaking of Johnny Appleseed … you won’t want to miss the Appleseed Country Fair, a three-day extravaganza at the Red Apple Farm in Phillipston on Labor Day weekend! Keep your eyes peeled — you just might spot Johnny himself amid the fair-goers! The weekend is jam-packed with music, crafters, hayrides, farm animals … and the ever-popular brew barn! Pick your own apples, or buy some at the farm store, bring the family and enjoy a day in the fresh country air!

The region’s namesake also lends his moniker to a downtown Leominster bash — the Johnny Appleseed Arts & Cultural Festival, a day filled with food, music, and more right in the city’s business district. Visit over 220 Vendors From School Street to Park Street and West Street, and onto Main Street to Merriam Avenue. The world famous Apple Crisp returns as does Johnny Appleseed himself!

But Wait! There’s More!

Pick a weekend, any weekend, in the fall, and you’re likely to find a celebration somewhere in Johnny Appleseed Country. Here’s a quick list to get your grey cells moving: St. Edward’s Fall Fair in Westminster; ShirleyFest on the Shirley Common; River City Rhythm & Rock Fest in Fitchburg; Winchendon’s Fall Festival, held downtown; the Westminster Cracker Barrel Festival; the 42nd Arts & Crafts Fair on Townsend Common; BBQFest at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area; the Alpaca Farm Fest in Lunenburg; and the Cannoli Festival in Leominster!

There’s just no shortage of celebrations this fall — browse through the Calendar section of This Guide and head out for a fun- (and food-) filled day in Johnny’s backyard!