The Best Fall Festivals in Southwest Missouri

Enjoy the perfect fall day in southwest Missouri with festival fun for the whole family.

By Jo Everhart, Kate Duby and Caroline Mund. Photography by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers and Linda Huynh

Sep 2021

Eli Roberts eating candy apple
Photo by Leah StiefermannEli Roberts is all set for fall fun with the season’s best treat, a candy apple. Purchase Photo

The next two months are all about the sights, smells and sounds of autumn’s arrival in southwest Missouri, and nearby small-town fall festivals go all in when it comes to quirky fun. This season, spend a day or two outside in the cooling air and crisp sunshine—crunching into fresh apples, spying enormous pumpkins, participating in funky competitions and digging into all the fair food you can handle. Take a look at all your fall fest options below.

Be sure to gather safely this fall—see the Springfield-Greene County Health Board website for current guidance. Make sure you check festival websites for up-to-date event information in case of changes or cancellations.

What kind of fall fest are you looking for?

Full Festival Fun

Republic Pumpkin Daze

Fest at a glance:
October 2
Must-try snack
Pig on a stick
Must-see entertainment
Great live music
Must-do activity
Tractor pull

You've never seen pumpkins like these before. With pumpkins weighing in at over 600 pounds the Republic Pumpkin Daze Festival holds competitions for the largest pumpkins. You can participate in other categories like largest watermelons, tomatoes and sunflowers.

Even if you don’t participate in the competition, you can watch the produce weigh in. It’s not just the pumpkins that are big. This year’s event is a celebration of the City of Republic’s 150th anniversary and Pumpkin Daze’s 30th festival celebration. Usually held on Main Street, this year it takes place at J.R. Martin Park, allowing more space for entertainment and up to 350 booths for vendors.

There's something for everyone at this festival including more hands-on activities. Bring lawn chairs to sit and listen to performances by Geezer, Mark Chapman Band and Isaac Kenneth. Grab your friends and family to enjoy tasty treats in the concessions area for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Dive into kettle corn, ice cream, pig on a stick, barbecue by Smokin’ Wheels, corn dogs and tons of festival food.

Let your pets strut their stuff at the pet parade. “We have had dogs dressed up as everything you can imagine,” says Cheri Hamilton, President of the Pumpkin Daze Committee. The parade is not limited to just dogs, though; enjoy seeing a wide variety of chickens, cows, ducks and more animals dressed up too.

The Republic Pumpkin Daze is also offering a new kids zone section full of activities to keep the kids entertained, including a playground, laser tag, human hamster balls and inflatables. Finally, don't miss competing in the pedal tractor pull, offered in both youth and adult categories.

Kid on small tractor at fall festival
Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda HuynhEven the little guys can get into the fall fun at the Pumpkin Daze festival. Purchase Photo
Giant pumpkin contest photo
Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda HuynhVisitors compete for the title of biggest pumpkins. Purchase Photo
Pie eating contest at fall festival
Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda HuynhBe sure to bring your appetite-and a wet wipe or two-and take part in the annual pie eating contest. Purchase Photo
Bubble races at fall festival
Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda HuynhUp for a game of Battle Balls Bubble Soccer? Purchase Photo

Seymour Apple Festival

Fest at a glance:

September 9–11
Must-try snack
Smoked pork sandwiches
Must-see entertainment
Mark Chapman Band
Must-do activity
Kids turtle race

The Annual Seymour Apple Festival has harvested the perfect enviornment for the entire community the past 48 years. With a beautiful fall atmosphere, everyone is given a warm welcome for a packed weekend long celebration. Be sure to grab a lineup sheet so you don’t miss any of the events.

Enjoy the environment of the historic downtown with sidewalk sales and shops where you can find a variety of home decor from furniture and rugs to homemade signs and candles. You can shop till you drop with more than 100 vendors providing plenty of options from the Seymour Merchants Association. Once you’ve worked up a big enough appetite, take a break and get a bite to eat from food vendors offering all the favorites like corn dogs and tacos.

The schedule of events for the weekend is packed with the Annual Fun Run 5K, kids turtle race and parade. As made obvious by the name, the Seymour Apple Festival puts an extra emphasis on the harvest of apples in the fall with the apple-peeling contest, apple baked goods contest and the crowning of the apple princess. You've never had so much fun with apples.

Enjoy the variety of music each night from Chelsey James, Isaac Kenneth, Ozark Travelers and the Mark Chapman Band. With this lineup a true Missourian won’t be able to resist toe-tapping along, and if your toes are feeling especially tappy, you can even join the squaredancing crowd.

Kids dressed up in costumes at a fall festival
Photography by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers and Linda HuynhWith fun and food for the whole family, be sure to bring the kids dressed in their fall festival bests. Purchase Photo

Maple Leaf Festival

Fest at a glace:

October 1–30
Must-try snack
Brats on the Square
Must-see entertainment
Marching Band Festival
Must-do activity
Three Minutes of Fame Lip Sync Competition

Carthage can’t contain its joy for the arrival of autumn into just one day and instead stretch out their festivities throughout the entire month of October. Events span 10 days across the month and the festival kicks off with a live auction on the first of the month, then a lobster boil and night out at the courthouse the following day.

The following weekend is two days full of pageants for everyone from babies and toddlers to high school students. You can even show off your pets in the pet show or Dachshund Dash to find the fastest wiener dog.

The real festivities don’t kick off until October 13–17 with a carnival throughout the week and special events each day. Among the special events is the Automotive Swap Meet followed by Cruise Night at the 66 Drive-In Movie Theater, where you can register your car or attend as an audience member for a night of live entertainment and prizes.

Carthage puts an emphasis on community for the Maple Leaf Festival parade, antique tractor show and marching band festival that takes place throughout this week of celebration. You can then end your festivities with some spooky fall fun.

The 6th Annual Charity Costume Ball, called “A Haunted History," is a night of live music, dinner, dancing performances from YMCA spectral dancers. You can add more spookiness to the evening with a haunted history tour or ghost tour ride.

Two girls with a dog at the Maple Leaf Festival
Photography by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers and Linda HuynhFace painting, fresh lemonade, fall colors and pups on parade are all part of the Maple Leaf Festival. Purchase Photo

Hollister Grape Festival

Fest at a glance:

October 9
Must-try snack
Hurts Donuts
Must-see entertainment
Dogs Gone Grape Pup Pageant
Must-do activity
Grape Stomp

Start your festival day off right with some morning exercise and partake in the Color Me 5k run starting at 9 a.m. After that head over to Downing Street for the Hollister Grape Festival, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This 23-year-old festival includes about 120 vendors that range from food trucks and craft vendors to non-profits and  local businesses. Hurts Donuts even makes a special donut for the grape festival and treats for pups.

The fun doesn’t stop there. Kids can enjoy the kids area with activities such as bounce houses, petting zoo and pumpkin carving or painting. You can even bring your “paw-ticipants” to embark in the Dogs Gone Grape Pup Pageant, and then vote for your favorite model. Enjoy live entertainment on the main stage as well as beer and wine garden. Festival goers can even participate in a grape stomping event just like they did in “I Love Lucy.”

While this competition is strictly for stomping the grapes, not throwing them, there are both youth and adult divisions that guests can enter. This isn’t just any simple grape stomp though. Groups of four are put on stage and then put on a minute-long performance all while mashing the grapes and being ranked by a set of judges. These judges are not above accepting bribes for this intense competition so make sure to stop by to see the judges in their purple togas and drop off your best treat. Winners receive excellent prizes, including the traveling ugly monkey trophy, which brings lots of bragging rights.

Dog dressed up for grape festival
Photography by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers and Linda HuynhBringing your best friend? Be sure to dress him in his festival best! Purchase Photo
Grape stomping competition photo
Photography by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers and Linda HuynhBe sure to catch the grape stomp—where participants dance and smash all at once. Purchase Photo

Apple Butter Makin’ Days

Fest at a glance:

Mt. Vernon
October 8–10
Must-try snack
Apple dumplings
Must-see entertainment
Apple butter making in the square
Must-do activity
Pie-eating contest

Made the old-fashioned way in big copper kettles, apple butter is the star and namesake of this food-filled festival in Mt. Vernon. Each fall, during the second full weekend in October, more than 400 local food and craft vendors set up camp on the historic Mt. Vernon courthouse square, with the apple butter makin’ at the center of it all. Known and loved across Missouri, this fall festival is not one to skip.

Join fellow apple butter epicures on the Lawrence County Courthouse lawn just after daybreak and watch the sauciers work their magic until mid-afternoon (trust us, you’ll want to stay all day!) while you peruse craft booths and sample homemade treats. As you await the crowning of the Apple Butter Queen, take part in cult-favorite competitions like the bubblegum-blowing contest and the apple-pie-eating contest, or get a head start on No-Shave November for the mustache and beard-growing contest. The fun doesn’t stop there—and the furry faces don’t either.

Have your phone camera handy and head over to Spirit of ‘76 park for the annual wiener dog races (does a cuter thing exist?) or catch the pet parade––a kid-approved, festival-committee favorite. But if there’s one tradition you simply can’t miss out on at Apple Butter Makin’ Days, it’s partaking in the seemingly endless array of beloved carnival food.

From turkey legs and tornado potatoes to funnel cakes and snow cones, food is everywhere at this festival, and you’ll be glad you came hungry! Beyond the boiling kettles, apples come in pretty much every form—pie, cider, dumplings, you name it. Make sure you try a little bit of everything, and don’t even think about leaving without a jar or two of homemade apple butter.

Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda Huynh Left to right: At Apple Butter Makin' Days, the tasty treat is cooked in giant kettles—so stock your pantry while you're there; Classic car enthusiasts can view some beauties here, too; Ready? Set? Go! Wiener dog races are a festival tradition.

Hootin’ an’ Hollarin’

Fest at a glance:

September 16–18
Must-try snack
Root beer floats
Must-see entertainment
Bed races
Must-do activity
Nightly square dancing with live music

It’s time to brush up on your do-si-do and promenade! On its 60th anniversary, Hootin’ an Hollarin’ is bringing noise and fun back to Gainesville. True to its name, the festival features live music, square dancing, parades and more. At Hootin’ an Hollarin’, smiles are contagious and laughter is abundant as little kids in prairie dresses, bonnets, overalls and cowboy hats dance around in time to a live bluegrass medley.

With a keen understanding of the old-timey comfort that brings people back every year, the festival organizers dedicate themselves to curating an atmosphere that welcomes first-time visitors. The festival even plays host to  myriad family reunions each fall. But the 60-year preservation of well-loved town traditions is not the only thing that sets this festival apart from others––if there’s anything the Gainesville crew prides itself on, it’s that the hootin’ and hollarin’ doesn’t stop until late in the evening.

At 9 p.m. each night of the festival, the streets are alive with the sound of fiddles as square dancing commences. The merrymaking goes on until midnight, and the next day’s festivities, even in competition with the nightly square dancing shindig, certainly will not hold back.

Everyone looks forward to the annual Queen Contest and the big Saturday parade, but the pork rinds, chicken legs, and homemade root  beer floats deserve at least an honorable mention. Stop by all of the food  and craft booths spread throughout the festival grounds, and you’re guaranteed to find something handmade, timeless and one-of-a-kind.

Bed race at fall festival
Photos by Brad Zweerink, Chuck Travers, Linda HuynhBed races? You bet! It's the team sport of choice at Hootin' and Hollarin' year after year. Purchase Photo

Festival Road Trips

Take your fall fun on the road by hitting up some drivable festivals throughout Missouri.

Get Your Witch On

Kimmswick Witches Night Out
October 9, Kimmswick, 314 Market St., Kimmswick
Come dressed as witches for a fun girls night out for ages 21 and older. This spooky night includes music and entertainment, dancing, food, shopping, prizes, wine tasting, food booths, scavenger hunt, psychic readings, costume contests and much more! The event proceeds not only go to the historic town but also to non-profit charities and community organizations.

Celebrate with the Spirits

Spirits in the Garden
October 30, St. Louis, 4344 Shaw Blvd., St. Louis
Celebrate on the night before Hallows’ Eve from 6–9 p.m. at the Botanical Garden for guests 21+. This is a Halloween party so come dressed up and play scary movie trivia, participate in a scavenger hunt, watch scary movies and dance to some of your favorite Halloween tunes. You’ll even get to meet with a paranormal investigator and fortune teller. Make sure to be on the lookout for a stilt-walking Frankenstein’s monster!

Sprechen sie Deutsch

Hermann Oktoberfest
Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday in October, Hermann, 109 W 2nd St #1045, Hermann
Put on your lederhosen or dirndl, nosh on a pretzel and pour yourself a craft brew at Hermann’s annual Oktoberfest, held every weekend in October. There’s no party like a Hermann party (that is how the saying goes, right?), and this ultimate fall festival is no exception. The town pulls out all the stops to celebrate its time-honored German heritage, with the added perk of its scenic Katy Trail backdrop.

Take a Bite of the Best Apples

Historic Weston Applefest
October 2–3, downtown Weston
A crisp and crunchy apple harvest meets a celebration of local art at this longstanding autumn tradition in Weston. There are dozens of artists and artisans on-site, plus apple butter, apple cider, a garden market, food vendors and lots of beautiful fall sights. And it all starts with a parade.

Close to Home

If you want to stay in the city instead of venturing to nearby small towns, try one of these awesome little festivals in Springfield. Which one is right for you?

Want to experience a different culture?

Japanese Fall Festival
September 10–12

Want to stick around the city?

Cider Days
September 18–19

Prefer a stroll in the park?

Art in the Park
October 9–10