Farms, festivals, foliage: Fall — a fun time full of color

The only season with two names gives us many reasons to celebrate the time of year when leaves prepare to burst into a dizzying array of color before falling, and we prepare to bring in the harvest.

You don’t have to leave the state of Pennsylvania, or even this region, to enjoy the benefits of autumn. Area farms are preparing to host pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides and demonstrations of farm life; a number of organizations are ramping up festivals celebrating harvest and other points of the season; and the chlorophyll already has begun breaking down in the leaves of deciduous trees that will soon fill not only the forests, but the cities, too, with flashy foliage.

Farm life

“We do a whole lot of fall events on our farm,” said Carissa Westrick of Vale Wood Farms in Loretto. “We have a maze, a pumpkin patch, a hayride … We are a dairy farm, so it’s not just a hayride; it’s a farm tour. We show them our cows that make the milk and circle back to the pumpkin patch. But it’s not just about pumpkins; it’s also an opportunity for folks to visit a farm and make sense of how farms fit into the local community. It’s a chance to educate people.”

JB Tree Farm off of Route 22 near Alexandria once again will have its corn maze, petting farm, hayride and pumpkin patch, said owner Evelyn Bookhammer.

Its big barn will be loaded with squash, gourds, pumpkins, apple cider and other items for sale, and the play area will feature a big pyramid built of hay bales for kids to climb. The farm also has areas set aside for campfires and picnics. For fun, visitors also can propel a pumpkin with a slingshot toward an abandoned vehicle in one of JB’s fields, which is “very popular,” she said.

Similarly, Weakland Farms in Portage will have wagon rides, a corn maze, barnyard animals, a pumpkin patch, bouncy house, country crafts and fall decoration store, while Way Fruit Farm in Port Matilda plans crafts, food, rides, a bunny petting barn and pumpkins.

Festivals

Celebrations of uniquely fall events begin in Altoona on Sept. 11 and 12 when the Unter Uns Club has planned its version of Oktoberfest. A dance is scheduled that Friday night, and that Saturday’s agenda includes live music, polka music, German folk dancers, and German food, from brats to kraut, along with wine and imported German beer.

Prince Gallitzin State Park in Patton will again host its Apple Cider Festival on Oct. 4 with more than 100 vendors featuring handmade crafts and food, as well as music, environmental education programs, cider-pressing demonstrations, chainsaw carving, hay and pony rides and more.

DelGrosso’s Amusement Park celebrates its annual harvest festival on Sept. 26 and 27 with discounted admission of $6 to include rides and entertainment. Food and arts and crafts vendors also will be on hand.

On Sept. 26, Ebensburg hosts its PotatoFest, celebrating Cambria County’s role as the second largest supplier of potatoes in the state. It is a fun-filled day of arts, crafts, entertainment and food. More than 200 crafters and artisans line the streets for blocks.

Cresson celebrates its heritage Oct. 2, 3 and 4 with the Cresson Area Heritage Days in downtown along and near Front Street. A hobo dinner, music and hayrides are Friday night, while Saturday and Sunday feature crafts, food and entertainment.

Bedford celebrates the season on Oct. 3, 4, 10 and 11 in downtown with the Bedford Fall Foliage Festival. Music goes on all four days at several venues, including on the square and by the river, and more than 400 booths will have food, artisans demonstrating their craft and other activities. A number of separate events close by are filled with activities ranging from a wine tasting at a winery, a historical walking tour, a car show, a farmers market and quilt show and sale.

Alexandria celebrates its history on Oct. 10 with the 40th annual Hartslog Day, an annual fall heritage festival with food, crafts and displays, a pumpkin pole raising, antler carving and other craft demonstrations.

The Hollidaysburg Pumpkin Festival is in downtown Hollidaysburg on Oct. 17 and celebrates fall and everything pumpkin. Arts and crafts, food – including pumpkin – games, live entertainment and other activities are planned rain or shine in downtown. Free hayrides are scheduled at the YMCA at 1111 Hewit Street, and visitors might park there and ride to the festival.

Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center in Petersburg celebrates the fall harvest Oct. 24-25 with pumpkin carving, face painting, music, entertainment, activities, natural history programs, food and the Children’s Halloween Trail through woods whose leaves should be changing by then.

Fall foliage

New England tries to claim the fall foliage title, but no single state has as much beauty in the autumn as the Keystone State because of its sheer vastness and majestic mountains, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Spots of color could start popping up in late September, depending on your elevation. Viewing spots right here in Blair County include Chimney Rocks Park and Canoe Creek State Park, both near Hollidaysburg, Fort Roberdeau and the Sinking Valley area, as well as the tree-lined campus of Penn State Altoona.

Pay attention, as the weather has much to do with how much fun you have “leaf peeping.” Last year, thunderstorms in Blair County sent the fall foliage to the ground after only a few days of color.

“Autumn color is not always predictable but usually the mountain elevations will color up in late September to early October with the valleys bursting with bright color in mid-October,” according to VisitPA.com.

A new and unusual way to view the colors in Blair County this year is the Pumpkin Patch Train excursions offered by the Everett Railroad starting Oct. 18 out of its Hollidaysburg depot. The 90-minute round trip winds to Brooks Mills and back and includes a stop at a pumpkin patch.

In Centre County, the Bellefonte Historical Railroad Society offers Halloween and Fall Foliage round-trip train excursions to several locations, including Tyrone, to see parts of the countryside that most folks never get to see. They start on Oct. 16 and advanced tickets are required.

Also in Centre County, for the most part, is Rothrock State Forest, which VisitPA.com calls one of the “10 amazing places” to view fall foliage in Central PA.

“The parks and vistas that encompass Rothrock State Forest provide dramatic foliage areas,” says the tourism agency. Suggestions include mountain biking along the trails of the Seven Mountains area, or hiking along the many trails that wind through the forest that dips down into Huntingdon County, where a boat ride on Raystown Lake would provide a fine foliage viewing experience, as well.

A tip from VisitPA.com: The overlook atop Tussey Mountain along PA Route 26 at the Centre/Huntingdon County line provides “a truly spectacular and easily accessible scenic viewpoint” in Rothrock.

After checking out Rothrock, head west over to Milesburg and then south on U.S. 220 that leads to Pa. Route 504, also called Rattlesnake Pike. That 24-mile long highway ends in Wingate, and is considered one of the best routes in Centre County to view fall foliage, according to the Central Pennsylvania Visitors Bureau.

South of Blair County, Bedford celebrates its foliage, in part, because of the scenery that can be found along Route 30, also called the Lincoln Highway.

Just west of town is Shawnee State Park, near Schellsburg, where a “Fall Foliage Paddle” is scheduled for 3 to 5 p.m. on Sept. 27 in which kayakers can learn firsthand from an educator what causes the leaf colors to change.

Continue west on Route 30 through Somerset County to find a number of nice side trips and signs pointing to covered bridges, as well as the Flight 93 National Memorial, the new visitor’s center for which will be dedicated this Thursday.

If you stay on Route 30 west, head to Ligonier and turn south on Route 711 to jump on the Laurel Highlands Scenic Byway, which winds into Route 381. Keep heading south and watch for hiking and biking trails and iconic stops, including Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater home, cantilevered over a waterfall, and the Ohiopyle State Park.

Also in the region are several unusual ways to get a bird’s-eye view of the fall colors: Seven Springs Mountain Resort has a chairlift ride over the mountains, and Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington has over 3,000 feet of zip lines.

VisitPa.com also suggests these scenic fall foliage routes:

The 36-mile Longhouse National Scenic Byway winds its way through the Allegheny National Forest, passing impressive rock outcroppings and the Allegheny Reservoir shoreline. Stop and stretch your legs at several overlooks, all of which offer a bird’s-eye view of spectacular foliage. Start in Kane and head out on Route 321 North.

Spot elk and other fauna against the backdrop of beautiful flora on the Elk Country Loop, a 76-mile route that winds through the Pennsylvania Wilds. You can get more information at the Elk County Visitor Center in Benezette, just off Route 555, or at ElkCountryVisitorCenter.com.

The Pittsburgh skyline is framed with fall flora at the end of the 3-mile Grand View Scenic Byway, which takes visitors to the top of Mount Washington.

Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.