Fun and funny fall festivals

Fun and funny fall festivals

Four men swing axes while standing on wooden logs.

The Official Paul Bunyan Show (Photo courtesy of Charles Blocker)

The Official Paul Bunyan Show

Just as Paul Bunyan cuts an enormous figure in American folklore, the Paul Bunyan Show has carved out a huge reputation as one of the nation’s oldest and largest logging and sawmill equipment expos. Started in 1957, the Ohio Forestry Association event takes place at the Guernsey County Fairgrounds and boasts some 130 exhibitors who feature everything from lumber products and services to chainsaw sculptures and power tools.

While its attractions include hot saw contests, a bobtail and boom truck cruise-in, and portable demonstrations, the show’s International Lumberjack Competition is always a crowd favorite. Real-life Paul Bunyans from as far away as Sweden and the Netherlands amaze visitors with their skills at axe throwing, underhand log chopping, and wielding crosscut saws. “The lumberjack competition is like something you’d see on ESPN, and nothing in Ohio compares to it,” says Gayla Fleming, who is a Guernsey-Muskingum Electric Cooperative member and the Ohio Forestry Association’s event manager.

With its gigantic 16-ounce Angus beef patty, the show’s signature Bunyan Burger satisfies hearty appetites, but folks also enjoy Babe Burgers (8 ounces), homemade ice cream, and Amish fry pies. On Saturday and Sunday mornings, early risers treat themselves to Flapjacks for Lumberjacks, a hot-off-the-griddle pancake and sausage breakfast prepared by Ohio tree farmers.

-Damaine Vonada

A young attendee of the Geneva Area Grape Jamboree serves up the event’s signature fruit. (Photo courtesy of the Grape Jamboree)

The Geneva Area Grape Jamboree

Everything’s coming up purple at the 54th Geneva Area Grape Jamboree, an annual harvest celebration in northeast Ohio’s grape belt. “Geneva sits in a narrow band of land along Lake Erie where the climate is suited for growing grapes,” says Jamboree president Dave Johnson. “Concords are our No. 1 grape by acreage, but we produce lots of wine grapes, too.”

The Jamboree brings upwards of 200,000 people to downtown Geneva every September for family-friendly events such as its Grape Stomp, a juicy competition for barefoot kids and adults, and the Pie Eating Contest, which challenges folks to consume grape pies without using their hands. This year’s Jamboree also features a midway and rides, a car show and craft fair, Saturday and Sunday parades, and entertainment that ranges from the syncopated sounds of the Buffalo Bills Drumline to Green River, a Creedence Clearwater Revival tribute band.

Although local wineries offer tastings, the Jamboree is famous for its flavorful Concord grape juice. “The juice is fresh-squeezed at the grape growers’ booth, and you can buy it by the cup, half-gallon, or gallon,” says Johnson. Also available are grape pies, grape ice cream, and the ever-popular Purple Cow, a float made from grape juice and vanilla ice cream. “If you go to the Jamboree,” notes Johnson, “you’ve got to have a Purple Cow.”

-Damaine Vonada

Making apple butter the old fashioned way at Roscoe Village in Coshocton (Photo courtesy of the Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival)

Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival

Autumn in Roscoe Village is a special time of year. The beautiful scenery of central Ohio’s rolling hills, the crisp mornings that transform into warm afternoons, and the smoky-sweet aroma of homemade apple butter bubbling over an open fire combine to make the Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival in Historic Roscoe Village a fun fall event.

The three days of Apple Butter Stirrin’ officially begin October 20. Crafters’ and artisans’ booths line the street. Of course, no stroll through the festival would be complete without sampling the delicious assortment of unique foods, which include homemade soup, apple butter burgers, steak sandwiches, sweet potato fries, cinnamon-roasted nuts, and kettle corn.

As part of their festival admission, guests can go on a living history tour at their leisure to see what life was like in a 19th-century town nestled along the Ohio and Erie Canal. There’s also a kids’ activity area, and the weekend’s events are accented by performances by traditional dulcimer players, bluegrass bands, gospel singers, and country music artists. The nearby Monticello III offers a taste of life on the canal with its horse-drawn boat rides.

-Jamie Rhein

The Cleveland Pinball and Arcade Show brings folks of all ages to enjoy classic pinball and arcade games. (Photo courtesy of Don Johnson/Orange Photography)

Cleveland Pinball and Arcade Show

Among the more than 100 pinball and 30 arcade games at the Cleveland Pinball and Arcade Show is a trip to your childhood, plus a modern-day excursion through popular culture. Here, Iron Man, The Simpsons, Ghostbusters, and Game of Thrones are shouldered in rows of dinging, flashing, pinging delight as ricocheting metal balls meet their marks.

Players of all ages, from novice to pro, pull back springs that shoot balls into play. Watchful eyes anticipate the moment a flipper must strike the ball and send it to a high-point target. For a vintage classic like the Flying Turns, moving race cars around a track is the aim.

Along with open play, where attendees test their skills just for fun, the show’s International Flipper Pinball Association (IFPA) tournament is a friendly competition for players of all levels. Skilled players know every flip matters, and that double flipping (pushing both flippers at the same time) is a way to lose. Also included are seminars by pinball manufacturers and home repair experts, plus a flea market with pinball machines for sale. 

-Jamie Rhein