Take Ten: Awesome autumn festivals

DAVID BURKE PHOTOGRAPHY

We are reaping bountiful harvests throughout Wisconsin during this time of year. Consider these events an appetizer for marking our transition to fall.

Bayfield Apple Festival, Oct. 4-6: Pick apples by the bushel or savor a single, caramel-coated fruit. Sip small-batch hard cider, and nosh on smoked pork with apple butter. See who makes the best apple pie and who carves the longest unbroken apple peeling. Youngsters who join the Apple Dumpling Gang reap rewards that include a float ride in a parade where a 400-piece band marches to “On Wisconsin.” bayfield.org      

Windigo Fest, Manitowoc, Oct. 4-6: Halloween arrives way early at this part of the Lake Michigan shoreline. Learn ghastly tales of a person who turned into an insatiable beast long ago. Zombies, goth fans, metalheads and others lured by all things cryptically creepy converge for music, a costume parade and miscellaneous horrors. Think cemetery tours, a Heart of Darkness art exhibit, Dark Arts Circus and showings of “Rocky Horror Picture Show.” windigofest.com

Fermentation Fest, Reedsburg, Oct. 4-6, 12-13: “Culture” is the pervasive theme for this unusual and annual assortment of workshops, demos, tastings and artwork. Learn to make kombucha to kraut to sourdough to tempeh. Match beer with chocolate, beer with cheese, beer with charcuterie. Taste fermented rice wine and fermented hot sauces. Specialty dinners and homegrown art performances are a part of the deal too. fermentationfest.com

Cranberry Fest, Eagle River, Oct. 5-6: Marsh tours of cranberry farms are plentiful. Marvel at the ruby-red terrain that shimmers because of ripened berries bobbing in the bogs. Start the day eating pancakes with cranberries and fortify yourself later with berry-spiked beer or wine. Lace up for the Berry Bog Jog, a 5-kilometer course, and take home cranberries in bakery, salsa and bags of the dried or fresh fruit. Around 10,000 pounds of cranberries are sold during this popular festival. eagleriver.org

Giant Pumpkin Fest, Nekoosa, Oct. 5-6: Big pumpkin meets 100-foot-tall crane, and – spoiler alert – it doesn’t end well for the fruit, but spectators love witnessing the big drop and smash. Pumpkin in muffins, pies, cakes and more earns accolades for local bakers. The gardener who shows up with the heaviest pumpkin (2,152 pounds in 2018) gets a four-figure check. Growers show up with other humungous produce too, and kids with fast-rolling pumpkins earn medals. nekoosagiantpumpkinfest.com

Rural Arts Road Trip, Calumet County, Oct. 11-12: Changing leaf colors are a good enough reason for taking a leisurely country drive. Now enrich the road trip with stops at farms and rural art studios. Expect around three dozen participants at seven host sites on this self-guided tour. Meet artists eager to demonstrate their craft and food producers whose key ingredients come from area farms. ruralartsroadtrip.com

Children’s and Teen Book Festival, Sheboygan, Oct. 11-13: Wisconsin is home to several annual book festivals, but this one is unique because it’s all about titles for children and adolescents. More than one dozen authors, illustrators and other storytellers educate and entertain. Some sessions are for would-be authors. Most are for children who love to read. Venues include beautiful Bookworm Gardens, full of reminders of long-loved literature for children. sheboyganchildrensbookfestival.org

Oktoberfest Celebration, Lake Geneva, Oct. 12-13: Add potato pancakes and a German-style beer to that bratwurst and put on the polka shoes. This nod to German heritage takes over the city’s downtown. The festival also is about eating cider-flavored doughnuts, taking home a free pumpkin and watching all the bumping and bouncing of knockerball, whose competitors seem to defy gravity because of the game’s all-around cushioning. visitlakegeneva.com

Food and Wine Experience, Kohler, Oct. 17-20: Celebrity chefs from Food Network television shows and other notable endeavors make their way to The American Club during this time of year. So do cutting-edge mixologists and libation experts. Themed meals, workshops, recipe demos, product pairings and recognition of the 20th anniversary of America’s Test Kitchen deepen this multi-day schedule. It’s big on international flavors. americanclubresort.com

Wisconsin Science Festival, Madison, Oct. 17-20: Madison is the epicenter for hundreds of events statewide that are designed to challenge and delight curious children and adults. Tour science labs and a greenhouse. Understand what complicates a healthy water supply. Find science lessons in art museums, children’s museums and performance spaces too. wisconsinsciencefest.org