Wisconsin’s fabulous fall flavor fests
BY GARY KNOWLES For Sun-Times Media
Autumn harvest time is the foodie's dream season in Wisconsin. You'll find them sampling and tasting their way through the state. Put on your bib and follow them.
Warrens Cranberry Fest
Sept. 28-30 (Warrens)
Who could resist a Cranberry Whoopie Pie? Yeah. Nobody! Celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Warren's Cranberry Festival with more than 110,000 other cranberry-enthusiasts. The world's largest cranberry festival with three miles of shopping, arts and crafts, flea market antiques and sure, a cranberry parade. Find the foodies eating cranberry brats, cranberry cream puffs and cranberry wine.
Bayfield Apple Festival
Oct 5-7. (Bayfield)
Here you will find have more than 60 orchard and food booths selling appley treats such as caramel apples, apple dumplings, tarts, cider and, you might guess, apple-brats. Annual highlights include is music by Big Top Chautauqua and The Pipes and Drums of Thunder Bay. Some 150 artists and crafters will be there. You can visit orchards, see the evening boat parade and, sure, dine at the traditional fish-boil.
Nekoosa Giant Pumpkin Fest
Oct. 6-7 (Nekoosa)
Carve up these Lazy-Boy sized half-ton beauties, and, yes, there'll be plenty of pumpkin pie. Farmers start these giants in the spring, tend them like babies - some even feed them milk - then cut ‘em off the vine just before this internationally sanctioned weigh-in. You'll also find enormous squash, watermelons and fall produce. Don't miss the giant pumpkin drop (from a crane). And you bet, plenty to eat including local cranberries.
Ice Wine Release, Wollersheim Winery
Oct. 10 (Prairie du Sac)
This sweet celebration really has it roots in December when super-frozen St.Pepin grapes were carefully harvested on a bitter cold morning and then immediately crushed. Nine months of aging later they yield what winemaker Philippe Coquard calls The Nectar of the Vines. Taste this delicacy along with other award-winning Wollersheim wines. Enjoy live harp music and special tours of the vineyard where the 2012 crop of Ice Wine grapes hang waiting to freeze.
Autumn Harvest Fest
Oct. 13-14 (Wisconsin Dells)
The taste highlight of this fest is the Dells on Tap micro-brew (beer) tasting. The whole family can enjoy scarecrow stuffing, pumpkin decorating, an arts & crafts marketplace, hay and pony rides and live entertainment.
Kohler Wine & Food Experience
Oct. 18-21 (Kohler)
Top chef masters headline the Stella Artois Main Stage. Signature events include Food Network star Anne Burrell, America's Test Kitchen host and author Christopher Kimball, host of Lidia's Italy and best-selling author Lidia Bastianich and Chicago's Tony Mantuano, author, owner & head chef of Spiaggia. New this year is the Port wine paired with unexpected ingredients at the Port & Chocolate seminar featuring Kohler Original Recipe Chocolates Chocolatier Peter Clemens and Port & Cookies seminar hosted by Kohler's own pastry chef Richard Palm.
Wisconsin Original Cheese Fest
Nov. 9-10 (Madison)
Fall ends with a flourish as we celebrate Wisconsin's rock star artisan cheesemakers. Enjoy a variety of events, including creamery and farm tours, cheese maker dinners, educational and tasting seminars and the popular "meet the cheese maker" gala. Advance tickets are required for all events.
Gary Knowles is a Madison-based travel writer, photographer and consultant to travel industry. He serves as the travel advisor on Wisconsin Public Radio's Joy Cardin Show.