Fall is approaching Driftless Wisconsin. It’s a season where the suns mellows, but still shines brightly. The air is slightly crisp, and the leaves turn orange, scarlet, or gold. The bluffs become a riot of glorious color, framing our winding roads. The harvest begins and it is season of bounty — from apples to pumpkins — on roadside stands to abundant farmer’s markets. It’s a season of celebrations, and the people of the Driftless region know how to celebrate autumn.
If you look at our event calendar, you’ll find something to do every weekend, and you really can’t go wrong. Here are just a few of our family’s favorite fall festivities:
The Vernon County Fair is held in Viroqua on September 10 – 14th. This is a true, old-fashioned fair with fun for the whole family. The Grandstand has antique tractor pulls, truck pulls, harness racing and a demo derby. The Midway has a host of rides and games for all ages. In the evening the Ferris wheel lights up the sky for miles. At the top you can see the whole town of Viroqua as well as the family farms, country roads, and rolling bluffs. There is fried, fluffed, and funneled fair food in trucks galore. Save a little room and visit the 4H food stand, staffed by friendly kids and parents and with a menu of farm fresh deliciousness. Be sure to visit all the exhibit halls, too. The Education Building has displays from schools from across the county. You can see prize-winning plants, pickles, sewing, crafts and more. If you visit the commercial buildings, spend a quarter and spin the wheel at the Vernon County Memorial Hospital booth. You can win apples, popcorn, t-shirts, and lip balm, just to name a few. Of course, don’t forget to visit the animal buildings. Area youth take great pride in their animals and look forward all year to showing them at the fair. See horses, cows, pigs, goats, rabbits, and chickens. Don’t miss the fair!
The Driftless Art Festival is September 20-21 in Soldier’s Grove. The amazing scenery of the area provides inspiration for a multitude of artists, and this festival showcases their talents. You’ll find a huge variety of work including pottery, ceramics, pastel drawings, paintings, photography, jewelry, woodworking, glass, fiber, weavings, and sculpture. Stroll from tent to tent and at most displays you’ll meet the artist him or herself. All are friendly and happy to chat about their work. For many years, I’ve done a good portion of my Christmas shopping at the Driftless Art Festival, as there is so much unique and beautiful work.
The KidsArt tent in the middle of the grounds features artwork on display from regional schools. Activities for children take place in the tent, too.
Kids can use toothpicks and corks to build a sculpture creation, paint pictures, or learn to weave on the large communal loom. A host of yellow-shirted volunteers are there to help and provide free snacks. Speaking of snacks, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the other artists of the Driftless Art Festival: the culinary geniuses! You can choose from a variety of delicious treats, from a full meal to a delicious strawberry smoothie, using berries grown locally in Ferryville. Take your food over to the performance tent and enjoy some music. There will be four different groups this year, so music will be playing all day long. Don’t miss the Driftless Art Festival!
The Gays Mills Apple Festival is September 26th – 28th. This festival has all sorts of events spread out across the whole town. In Riverside Park on the banks of the Kickapoo River, you’ll find a selection of arts and crafts. Just up the road at the Crawford County Fairgrounds, there will be a flea market. Participate in a horseshoe tournament, enjoy the kiddie carnival, or try the fun walk/run on Saturday. Don’t forget the parade on Sunday afternoon; the kids enjoy being thrown candy and treats. Of course, apples are the centerpiece of this festival and you’ll want to eat some: freshly picked, drizzled with caramel, or baked into a pie or sugared donut (or one of each) –you can’t go wrong. Be sure to visit every apple orchard in Gays Mills, whether during the Apple Festival or any time this fall. Only going to one orchard in Gays Mills is like going to Mall of America and only going to one store: just wrong. Each orchard is unique with their own specialty and activities. Some offer free apple recipes, others have a free corn maze or animals for the kids to feed and pet. Of course, you’ll leave with a car full of the best fresh apples around. Don’t miss the Gays Mills Apple Festival!
With all of the fall events going on in Driftless Wisconsin, you’ll want to plan a visit for a day, a weekend, or even a month! Luckily, we have you covered with many great places to stay. You won’t be disappointed. Don’t miss Driftless Wisconsin in the fall!