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Beyond Pumpkins and Cider: 9 Weird Fall Food Festivals

PHOTO: Brad Kemp

Pumpkins aren’t the only autumn harvest worth celebrating.

Come fall, apple and pumpkin festivals are ubiquitous in the U.S. But if you’ve eaten more than your fill of cider donuts and sipped one too many pumpkin-spice concoctions, you’ll be pleased to know that there are a number of fall food festivals and food-centric events around the globe that offer surprising treats, along with a few tricks. Some of the headlining foods and beverages fall into the ‘fairly benign’ category (coffee, biscuits), while others are downright bizarre—Sheep’s head or dragonfly pie, anyone? Whether you’re an adventurous eater or prefer to play it safe, these celebrations are worth the trip.

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PHOTO: Karen Swain/NCMNS
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Bugfest

WHERE: Raleigh, North Carolina

When: September 16, 2017

Featured food: Dragonflies, crickets, ants, etc.

Since 1996, this free event held at the North Carolina Museum of Sciences attracts 35,000 visitors. This year’s theme is the humble dragonfly. In addition to interacting with entomologists and scientists to talk bugs (and helping to build a giant dragonfly out of Legos), brave attendees can sample dishes prepared by local chefs that feature insect delicacies like Stir-fried Scorpion and Chocolate Chirp Cookies made with crickets. Who knows—maybe Buffalo Dragonfly Wings will become a thing.

roadkill
PHOTO: Shutterstock
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The West Virginia Roadkill Cookoff

WHERE: Marlinton, West Virginia

When: September 29-30, 2017

Featured food: Squirrels, deer, rabbits, elk, etc.

Held in the heart of the West Virginia Mountains, this offbeat food festival invites chefs to compete for a $1,200 First Prize by cooking creative dishes with proteins inspired by roadkill. (Fortunately, the animals don’t require tire marks to be featured in a dish.) The 2016 winners included Smashed Pota “doe” Patties and Thumper Bumper Over Grits. This year’s creatively named entries are sure to elicit a chuckle, even if you opt out of sampling them.

INSIDER TIPDon’t worry about overindulging on offbeat offerings; you can work off the calories at a Possum Trot 5k Run/Walk held on the second day of the Cookoff.

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PHOTO: Pavla | Dreamstime.com
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Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

WHERE: Saugerties, New York

When: September 30 and October 1, 2017

Featured food: Garlic

At this two-day ode to the aromatic bulb, first held in 1989, you can learn how to cultivate your own cloves by chatting with garlic farmers and vendors. A children’s craft tent, live musical performances, and guest lecturers round out the family friendly event, while local chefs dole out dishes guaranteed to keep vampires at bay, from garlic sausage and fries to garlic knots and soup. More than 50,000 guests have turned out in past years to honor the Stinking Rose, as it’s known. Bring your appetite—and plenty of breath mints!

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Alba International White Truffle Fair

WHERE: Alba, Italy

Featured food: White truffles

The white truffles from the hills of Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato are only available for two months every year. So correre, don’t walk to this celebration of the sublime (and costly) delicacy that dates back to the 1920s.

The truffles will cost you a pretty penny, but don’t worry; each is checked by a quality commission, and those weighing more than 10 grams come with a warranty! If your tastes are more modest, you can also sample wine, cheeses, meats, fresh pasta, and chocolate from more from 100 exhibitors. Sign up for weekend events at the Alba Truffle Show, which include cooking demos and a combination wine tasting/truffle sensory analysis.

 

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Råbechilbi Turnip Festival

WHERE: Richterswil, Switzerland

When: November 11, 2017

Featured food: Turnips

Halloween meets Thanksgiving at this celebration of the white turnips grown in the region. On the second Saturday in November shortly before sunset, inhabitants of Richterswil (population: ~13,000) parade through the village holding carved turnips in which candles are lit. Around 1000 villagers participate, enough to nab the title of “Longest Procession” in the 2000 edition of The Guinness Book of World Records. Those who flock to Richterswil by train or boat to view the ritual, which originated in 1850, are also treated to ornate lighting displays outside the locals’ homes, live music, and a food market where sweets and sausages are on offer.

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Giant Omelette Celebration

WHERE: Abbeville, Louisiana

When: November 4-5, 2017

Featured food: Omelettes

Mix 5,000 eggs, 15 pounds of crawfish tails, and loads of onions and peppers in a 12-foot skillet for the makings of a great celebration, which honors Abbeville’s French origins. Abbeville is one of seven locations around the globe (others include Bessieres, France and Pigue, Argentina) that belong to a worldwide confrerie of omelette cities.

Held in historic downtown Abbeville, the two-day celebration, which includes an art show, Cajun music, and an egg-cracking contest, culminates in the cooking of the monster omelette, served with bread and plenty of hot sauce. This is one event that may be worth flipping for.

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PHOTO: Smalahovetunet
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Smalahovesleppet

WHERE: Vossevangen, Norway

When: September 28-October 1, 2017

Featured food: Sheep’s head

Once considered peasant food in Western Norway, sheep’s head is now a delicacy that merits a celebration of its own. The four-day festival, launched in 1998 and held in a quaint Norwegian village (population: 6053), includes sheep shearing and a sheep’s head eating contest. The event culminates with dinner prepared by a local hotel chef featuring—you guessed it!—Smalahove (sheep’s head), served with plenty of mashed rutabaga, potatoes, and Akvavit (drink enough of this potent, locally produced spirit and chances are you’ll forget what you’re eating).

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PHOTO: Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
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Kona Coffee Cultural Festival

WHERE: Kona, Hawaii

When: November 3-12, 2017

Featured Beverage: Coffee

This 47-year-old fest celebrates the harvest of everyone’s favorite caffeinated pick-me-up. With more than 40 events during 10 days of festivities, there’s a cupping competition for which the brews’ 50 local growers are judged on taste and aroma, as well as a lantern parade that winds its way through historic Kailua Village. You can even try your hand at picking ripe coffee beans at a local farm. In addition to a perpetual java boost, expect plenty of Hawaiian music and the aloha spirit.

INSIDER TIPAt the Holualoa Coffee & Art Stroll, over 40 farms provide brewed samples and historic art galleries open their doors.

 

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PHOTO: Ben Fink
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Natchez Biscuit Festival

WHERE: Natchez, Mississippi

When: September 30, 2017

Featured Food: Biscuits

To claim the title of Biscuit Capital of the World, Natchez must be doing something right. Prepare yourself for a day of biscuit demos, cook-offs (both for professional chefs, home cooks, and kids) and, yes, plenty of flaky, buttery samples at this fest’s second annual installment.

If you think biscuits are boring, rest assured that the dishes on offer are anything but bland; last year’s included Spicy Pimiento Cheese Biscuits and Caramelized Pears on Cinnamon Biscuits. You’ll also have a hand in crowning this year’s Biscuit Queen (entrants range in age from 5 to 95).