By Melanie Radzicki McManus | Photo: Wo-Zha-Wa Days, courtesy Wisconsin Dells VCB
One of the best ways to celebrate the sights, sounds and smells of autumn is by attending a fall festival. Here are eight within easy driving distance.
Sept. 15-18, Waunakee
This multifaceted festival, held at Endres Manufacturing in Waunakee, begins on Thursday night with wine tasting and live music. The Wauktoberfest grounds officially open on Friday, when you can grab some suds and enjoy music from various groups.
Saturday features a pop-up market, beer-blessing and beer-keg race, where two-person teams battle to see who can roll a keg along the ground the fastest. There are even sauerkraut and limburger cheese-eating contests. The bash concludes on Sunday with more beer, music and fun.
WO-ZHA-WA DAYS FALL FESTIVAL
Sept. 16-18, Wisconsin Dells
One of the more popular fall events, Wo-Zha-Wa Days offers a wealth of diverse activities and events. There’s an antique flea market, arts and crafts fair, carnival rides and Maxwell Street Days bazaar. Live music is playing daily, and Saturday morning features a fun run. The festival wraps up on Sunday with a 100-unit parade. Activities are held throughout the downtown, including Bowman Park.
WINE & HARVEST FESTIVAL
Sept. 17-18, Cedarburg
Nosh on apple brats, cranberry turkey wraps, jambalaya or maybe “gator on a stick” at this autumnal fest, which is celebrating its 50th year. Specialty beers will be flowing in the Fermentorium Tap Tent, while the village’s Cedar Creek Winery will be selling a selection of tasty wines. Work off any calories consumed by taking part in the grape- stomping contest or the charity regatta, which involves paddling a 600-pound carved pumpkin boat.
Sept. 23-25, Elkhart Lake
The first annual Elktoberfest kicks off Friday night with a stein social and live music throughout the walkable village. Saturday features a Root Beer Garten for the kids, where they can get their faces painted or create a pretzel necklace. Adults can walk or run in the Wine-and-Beer 5K, with participants receiving a wine glass and ticket for a glass of wine or craft beer afterwards. A community breakfast on Sunday closes out the event.
VERONA FALL FEST
Sept. 30, Verona
This family-friendly evening festival boasts plenty of games and crafts for the kids, plus a petting zoo and both train and hay rides. Grab dinner at Food Truck Alley, where there’s something to tempt everyone’s taste buds, then enjoy your meal al fresco while grooving to the live music. When the sun sets, warm yourself by the roaring bonfire or catch the outdoor flick.
LAKE GENEVA OKTOBERFEST
Oct. 7-9, Lake Geneva
Head to Lake Geneva’s Flat Iron Park for this entertaining fall fest, which features a craft fair, live music and tasty treats, like apple cider donuts. There’s also the requisite beer garden, and a special kids’ entertainment area offering activities such as a bouncy house and pony rides. Dachshund owners can enter their pooches in a short — but very entertaining — race. And adults can test their strength and endurance in the stein-hoisting competition, where they’ll fight to see who can hold a giant stein of beer in one outstretched arm the longest.
MONONA FALL FESTIVAL
Oct. 15, Monona
Monona’s fall fest, held in Winnequah Park, kicks off with the Hoot Hoot Hustle, a run-walk event. A mix of paid and free attractions are available, including balloon sculptures, pony rides, pumpkin decorating, disc golf, arts and crafts, and a cow-milking contest. The highlight of the event is the chili cook-off, where contestants vie to create the tastiest chili, which festival-goers can sample.
HALLOWEEN IN DELAFIELD
Oct. 22, Delafield
Get ready for Halloween by strolling through the streets of downtown Delafield, trick-or-treating at local businesses to the music of Ring Tunes, a popular Lake Country DJ. The finale comes at dusk, when the Grand Pumpkin Illumination takes place in Clock Tower Square. Dozens of grinning jack-o’-lanterns are simultaneously set aglow, to the delight of all.