Maple Leaf Festival, Carthage
When there’s too much excitement to cram into one weekend, why not turn the whole month into one jam-packed fall festival? Complete with a circus, bake sale, beauty pageant, lobster boil, bike tour, dog show, 5K race and much more, Carthage’s annual Maple Leaf Festival brings in an estimated 80,000 attendees. The whole shindig kicks off with a chocolate-lovers fundraiser for Meals on Wheels on September 30.
By the time the third week of the month rolls around, you can barely stand the excitement. What’s all the fuss about? Oh, just the largest parade in southwest Missouri! With more than 200 entries, this annual parade is two hours long and takes place the third Saturday of October. There is also a four-day carnival, historic and art exhibits, a classic car show, and community outreach events all month. There’s so much going on this month, you’d be remiss not to download the brochure listing each day’s events. There are inflatables for the kiddos, a tractor show in central park, a model train show for all the collectors out there, a quilt show debuting this year, live music and hundreds of vendors. As if this festival wasn’t exciting enough, there’s even a circus. Back at the fest for the second time, the circus brings with it all the must-see headliners including big cats, camels, trick roping, tumbling, clowns, fire eating and much more.
Ozark Craft Festival
There’s something about fall that itches at your inner craftiness. Cool evenings prelude hours carving pumpkins and afternoons baking pies. Homemade quilts passed through generations are pulled out and knitting projects rekindled. And each fall, Finley River Park hands over its grassy lawn to the 350 vendors who flock to this annual celebration of all things handmade.
Some vendors have become yearly staples, including one wily inventor whose homemade device peels lanky strips of onions and potatoes that can be quickly slipped into your mouth. Others arrive new each year. No matter the turnout, there’s always something unexpected to be found including one family that makes and plays OzMo drums. To house the hundreds of vendors who turn out, five circus tents are erected, and a large pole barn provides shade for even more.
Crowds get so dense you couldn’t stir them with a stick.
Handmade tree swings, root beer, live crafting and finger painting abound, as does a treasure trove of festival eats. Roasted corn on the cob, fried fish, buffalo burgers, barbecue, tamales, empanadas, funnel cakes, pig skins, oven-fired pizzas, kettle corn and snow cones are conveniently grouped in one area. With a little of everything thoughtfully arranged in one accessible-grouping, it couldn’t be easier to loosen your belt and dive in. Picnic tables and hay bales provide rest for your feet, but snag one while you can, the crowds often get so dense you couldn’t stir them with a stick. And don’t forget that handy wagon or your backpack to haul your treasures.
Pumpkin Daze, Republic
Since the festival launched in 1992, Pumpkin Daze has given Republic residents a new reason to love October’s favorite crop. Each year, massive pumpkins, gourds and watermelons are hauled in and displayed in all their gigantic glory as attendees enjoy vendors, pies, pet parades and contests.
Apple Days, Lamar
Carriage rides, bounce houses, pet shows, dance performances, pony rides, apple pies and more fall fun fill Lamar’s downtown square each year during Apple Days. Along with dozens of vendors, the city’s farmers market joins the ranks with a bounty of apples and apple products to take home.