It’s Festival Season!
- Visit North Central
We’ll be honest. There is no “festival season” in North Central Massachusetts — because the celebrations continue year-round! Yes, there’s always something to celebrate here: the ripening of the first juicy, red strawberries in June; the heavy-laden blueberry bushes in July; the opening of the cheery yellow sunflowers in August… right through to the sparkling wonderland of winter.
But for beautiful, bounteous seasons worthy of celebration, it’s hard to beat autumn in New England. Apple trees hanging heavy with luscious, crunchy fruit; bright orange pumpkins dotting expansive fields; farmstand tables piled high with freshly-harvested veggies — all set against the glorious colors of fall foliage.
A family road trip through the countryside just to marvel at the colors of Nature is, by itself, a worthwhile adventure. But plan a stop or two along the way — because there’s just so much happening here in the fall!
Some Top Picks
Sure, you’ve carved a scary (or funny) jack-o-lantern to set on your porch for Halloween. Or prepared a small, sweet pumpkin to bake a luscious pie for your dinner table.
But here’s a tip: You haven’t seen PUMPKINS until you’ve stopped by the Pumpkin Weigh-In that’s held each October in Phillipston! For years, this pumpkin festival was held on the Phillipston Common, with the scales set against a backdrop of the Congregational Church. But in recent years, it’s moved up to the spacious grounds of the Red Apple Farm, where it’s now presented by the Massachusetts Giant Pumpkin Association. These aren’t just big pumpkins. They are huge pumpkins… jaw-dropping pumpkins… monstrous pumpkins. You just have to see them to believe how big these veggies can be!
If you’ve never seen these mammoth gourds, mark your calendar now, and head to Phillipston on October 9!
The Red Apple Farm, by the way, has a full fall line-up of festivals, so you’ll want to visit again and again. Labor Day Weekend, of course, is the official kick-off of autumn — and it’s jam-packed with activities during the annual Appleseed Country Fair. Live music on two stages all weekend. Crafters and vendors. Barbecue stands and food trucks. Locally-crafted beers and cider in the brew barn. And, of course, apple picking, hayrides, and lots of things for the kids to do!
Pumpkins are the focus, too, at the Ashby Pumpkin Festival, held on the town common on September 24. The spotlight is on apples at the Cream of the Crop Macoun Weekend at Leominster’s Sholan Farms on September 24 and 25 and Wachusett Ski Area’s Applefest on October 15 and 16 and Oct 22 and 23. And for a totally different taste (and smell) treat, be sure to check out the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange on October 1 and 2. Yes, we said garlic — you can just follow your nose to this pungent celebration at Forster’s Farm.
And be sure to return to Wachusett Mountain again and again, because the line-up of festivals, from Kids Fest to BBQ Fest, rolls right through the fall.
But wait! There’s more! Farms and farm stands throughout the region will have their own harvest celebrations throughout the season, so no matter where your foliage-peeping drives and explorations take you, you’re sure to find famers shining the spotlight on their crops. Check out the corn maze at Lanni Orchards, and, of course, the giant Mega-Maze at Davis Farmland in Sterling, where the festival fun, complete with music and terrific food, never seems to end.
The food celebrations run right into in November, wrapping up with the Thanksgiving Harvest Festival at Red Apple Farm on November 19 and 20, where you can not only pick up just about everything you’ll need for your holiday dinner table, but enjoy some country-style games like hay-bale tossing before winter arrives.
Party in the Street
While locally-grown food is the focus of many festivals in this historically agricultural region, there’s a whole lot more celebrating going on this fall!
Here’s a hot tip: The Oktoberfest party in downtown Gardner includes a beer garden in front of —where else? — the Gardner Ale House! Ladies, get in the bierhaus spirit: Wear a Dirndle (Bavarian dress) to the Oktoberfest, post a photo on social media, and score a gift card or a drink and Bavarian sausage. Men and women at the event can also enter the Steinholding competition, with a shot at the state championships!
Special events like these abound at community events during fall festival season! Take a tour and have a great time!!
Check the Calendar section for details on these amazing autumn events:
Food Truck Festival in downtown Leominster, Sept. 9
Pepperell Fall Fest on Sept. 17
Fabulous Fall Festival, Chair Luge and Oktoberfest in downtown Gardner, Sept. 24
Blacksmith and Renaissance Festival at Riverfront Park, Fitchburg, Oct. 1
Cannoli Festival in downtown Leominster, Oct. 10
Westminster Cracker Festival on Main Street, Westminster, Oct. 15
Winchendon Fall Festival on Central Street, Oct. 22