Looking for something more exciting than pumpkin spice to shake up your plans this fall?
Consider adding one of these audacious autumnal experiences to your calendar: a squirrel cook off in Arkansas, ukulele festival in Florida, caterpillar races in North Carolina or the annual wife-carrying contest in Maine. For the month of Elktober, you'll find randy elks bugling their mating calls in Colorado. Or perhaps you'd like to turn your feet purple at a winery grape-stomping event.
Here's a random sample of fall fun around the country from classics to events that are just a little bit wacky.
• Kentucky Bourbon Festival, Bardstown, Kentucky, today through Sunday, www.kybourbonfestival.com • World Championship Squirrel Cook Off, 8th Street Market, Bentonville, Arkansas, Saturday, www.squirrelcookoff.com/ • World Chicken Festival, London, Kentucky, Sept. 21-24, chickenfestival.com (celebrates Kentucky Fried Chicken founder Colonel Sanders, featuring chicken fried in the world's largest skillet) • Santa Fe Wine & Chile Fiesta, Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sept. 27-Oct. 1, www.santafewineandchile.org • Truck Stop Food Truck Rally, Welton Street, Denver, Sept. 30, www.truckstoprally.com • Wild Mushroom Celebration, Long Beach Peninsula, Washington, Oct. 1-Nov. 15, www.wildmushroomcelebration.com • National Shrimp Festival, Gulf Shores, Alabama, Oct. 12-15, www.myshrimpfest.com • PA Bacon Fest, Easton, Pennsylvania, Nov. 4-5, pabaconfest.com
• Johnny Morris' Wonders of Wildlife National Museum & Aquarium, Springfield, Missouri, opening Sept. 21,www.wondersofwildlife.org • Narrowsburg Honey Bee Fest, Narrowsburg, New York, Sept. 23, www.narrowsburghoneybeefest.com • Alpaca Festival, Buck Brook Alpaca Farm, Roscoe, New York, Sept. 23, sullivan catskills.com/event/national- alpaca-day-festival • Buffalo Roundup, Custer State Park, South Dakota, Sept. 29, gfp.sd.gov/state-parks/directory/custer/events/buffalo-roundup/ default.aspx • Estes Park Elk Fest, Estes Park, Colorado, Sept. 30-Oct. 1,www.colorado.com/events/estes-park-elk-fest • Trailing of the Sheep Festival, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho, Oct. 4-8, www.trailingofthesheep.org (includes parade of 1,500 sheep) • Woolly Worm Festival, Banner Elk, North Carolina, Oct. 21-22, www.woollyworm.com (two days of races featuring more than 2,000 woolly bear caterpillars)
• Purple Foot Festival, Casa Larga Vineyards, Fairport, New York, Sunday, www.casalarga.com/events/purple-foot-festival (grape stomping) • Susan B. Anthony corn maze, Stokoe Farms, Scottsville, New York, opening Sept. 23, kfdm.com/news/offbeat/corn-maze-at-stokoe-farms-honors-susan-b-anthony (maze depicts Anthony, the women's rights activist who lived in nearby Rochester, honoring 100th anniversary of women's right to vote in New York) • American Wife Carrying Championship, Sunday River Resort, Newry, Maine, Oct. 7, www.sundayriver.com/events-and-activities/events-calendar/north-american-wife-carrying-championship • Strummin' Man Ukulele Festival, Panama City, Florida, Oct. 13-15, www.standrewsukes.org • Return of the Pumpkin People, Jackson, New Hampshire, throughout October, www.jacksonnh.com/event/1233/Return-of-the-Pumpkin-People (displays of pumpkins dressed as people) • Pumpkin Nights, in Twin Cities, Minnesota; Auburn, California, and Salt Lake City, Oct. 13-Oct. 29, www.pumpkinnights.com (walking trail featuring hundreds of hand-carved, lit-up pumpkins) • Appalachian Mural Trail, towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia, www.muraltrail.com (murals tell stories of communities along the parkway)
• National Crafts & Cowboy Festival, Silver Dollar City, Branson, Missouri, Wednesday to Oct. 28, www.silverdollarcity.com/theme-park/Festivals/National-Harvest-Festival • Oktoberfest Zinzinnati, Cincinnati, Friday to Sunday, www.oktoberfestzinzinnati.com/ • Cranberry festivals: Warrens, Wisconsin, Sept. 22-24, www.cranfest.com, and Wareham, Massachusetts, Oct. 7-8, admake peace.com • Cruisin' the Coast, Mississippi Gulf Coast, Oct. 1-8, cruisinthecoast.com (antique and classic cars) • Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Oct. 7-15, www.balloon fiesta.com • Great Vermont Corn Maze, Danville, Vermont, open through Oct. 15, www.vermontcornmaze.com (recommended arrival before 1 p.m. to get through massive, complex maze) • Circleville Pumpkin Show, Circleville, Ohio, Oct. 18-21, www.pumpkinshow.com • Bridge Day, New River Gorge, West Virginia, Oct. 21, officialbridgeday.com (participants leap, float and rappel from bridge)