5 Fall Harvest Festivals in Upstate New York You Need to Know About

by  Alex Schechter | Sep 6, 2013
Ithaca / Lisa Bronitt/iStock

We're not quite ready to say goodbye to summer. But in just under a month, we'll be entering into one of our favorite times of the year: fall harvest. Whether it's apples, pumpkins, cranberries, grapes, or otherwise, we can't wait to start stuffing our faces with delicious treats homegrown in upstate New York's ubiquitous farms, orchards, and wineries. Here are a few fun, family-friendly, food-filled festivals to get you in the spirit of the season. And don't worry about overdoing it on the desserts – after all, the next bikini season won't be for another nine months.

Naples Grape Festival
Despite a hiatus in the 1970s and 80s, the Naples Grape Festival has been running intermittently since 1961, and pretty much showcases everything there is to love about the small, rural town in New York's Finger Lakes region. In addition to sampling wines from local wineries like Arbor Hill, 1000 Island Winery, and Penguin Bay, visitors will come face-to-face with local crafters, artists, and chefs. And speaking of food, Naples has a unique claim to fame: it's one of the only towns in the country where you'll find grape pie on the dessert menu. That's right – the baking process is apparently so labor-intensive, most people simply don't bother. But at this annual event, held in the Memorial Town Hall, local families will be submitting their own home-baked creations to compete for the tittle of "World's Greatest Grape Pie." September 28 and 29.

Adirondack Coast Wine, Cider and Food Festival
Since launching last year, word has gotten out about this day-long festival, which serves as a one-stop shop for the region's top dairy farms, apple orchards, and vineyards. According to a festival organizer, wine production in this part of the country is unique because grapes grown here are hybrids of European varieties and hearty American rootstock, which enables them to withstand cold temperatures – as a testament to its success, the Adirondack Coast Wine Trail was recently designated an official trail by the State of New York. The event itself takes place in Crete Civic Center, where food demonstrations, wine and cider tastings, live music, and an "Early Civilization Culinary Challenge" will keep crowds entertained (not to mention well-fed) throughout the day. October 12.

Fly Creek Cider Fest
Consider yourself a fan of cider? Then this Cooperstown festival, now in its 15th year, is the one for you. Taking place inside a real, working cider mill built in 1856, the festivities include ci der-making demonstrations, plus an exhibit of antique hand-operated apple parers (peelers) – for the full effect, you'll be able to line up, insert your apple, and watch as it's peeled and cored in under four seconds! But there's more happening here than just factory equipment displays: you'll get to taste the stuff too, with a "Taste of Fly Creek" series that experiments with apple salsas, pasta sauces, dip mixes, and marinades. Behind the mill, an adjacent "Snack Barn" will be offering sweet treats like cider floats and cider slushies, and of course, good old-fashioned, preservative-free cider. October 12 and 13.

Ithaca Apple Harvest Festival
The Ithaca Commons, an attractive outdoor pedestrian mall located in downtown Ithaca, serves as the epicenter of this yearly harvest bash, where local farms, orchards, and wineries all put their delicious products on display. Around 30,000 visitors showed up last year to wander up and down State Street, passing a popular public mural project, and browsing over 100 vendor stalls peddling one-off apple varietals, piping hot apple cider donuts, fry bread, and more. With such an abundance of goodies, you'll soon understand why Ithaca was named one of the "foodiest towns in America" by Bon Appetit in addition to having invented the ice cream sundae, Ithaca also claims to have more restaurants per capita than New York City itself. October 4–6.

Great Pumpkin Festival
Halloween decorating takes on a whole new meaning at this harvest-time fest on the edge of Lake Ontario in Oswego. Judges annually award a $2,000 grand prize to the biggest and most beautiful pumpkin, prompting festival-goers to examine each specimen closely – all pumpkins are NY-grown, of course, so it's partly a matter of pride. Taking place in Washington Square Park, the festivities will be aided by live music performances, wine tastings, carnival rides, face painting, and, of course, plenty of pumpkin-flavored treats to be eaten. October 5.

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