Jefferson City, Mo. – An abundance of unique and exciting events make Missouri an ideal destination in the fall, and VisitMO.com lists hundreds of happenings, including fairs and festivals, to attend during this beautiful season. Check out this selection of fall events in northwest Missouri, where there seems to be something special about the number 36.
For example, The Original Riverside Riverfest, Sept. 14-15, in Riverside (north of downtown Kansas City) marks the festival’s 36th year. Activities include a parade, live entertainment, a 5K run, an inflatable carnival area for the kids, and craft vendors. As part of the fun, country music group Little Texas performs at 8:30 p.m. Saturday. That show leads up to the fireworks finale over the Missouri River. The event at Riverfront Park is free and activities are 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and 7:30 a.m. until the fireworks end Saturday.
Another regional festival also celebrates its 36th annual happening in 2012; the Liberty Fall Festival takes place Sept. 28-30 and focuses on the city’s history. One highlight is a reenactment of the daring 1866 robbery of the Clay County Savings Bank, which was attributed to outlaw Jesse James and his gang. Taking place in the downtown area, you find arts and crafts vendors, pedal-car races, carnival rides and a parade. Festival hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday.
The 36 connection continues at Toonfest, held Sept. 15 in Marceline. How so? Glad you asked; Marceline is the hometown of animation pioneer Walt Disney, one of the innovators featured along Highway 36, known as “The Way of American Genius.” Around the city, from E.P. Ripley Park to the Uptown Theatre, you find activities such as a parade, live entertainment, a cartoonists symposium, and the International Cartoon Show at the Masonic Temple. Youngsters are encouraged to come in costume (think princesses and pirates) and enjoy their place in the parade; there’s a tea party for the princesses. Activities are 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
Let’s make a final connection to 36 with the Pony Express PumpkinFest, Oct. 12-14 in St. Joseph, which, as you probably guessed, is located on Highway 36. One of the highlights of PumpkinFest occurs with the simple flip of a switch. The lighting of Great Pumpkin Mountain sees some 800 carved, electrically lit pumpkins come to life. During the festival, there’s a costume parade for children, live entertainment, a petting zoo, and craft booths. Activities at Patee Park and outside the Pony Express National Museum are 5 p.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, and noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
Let’s stray from the 36 theme and focus on another specific topic: fall events happening in Missouri’s largest city, Kansas City. Art, music, food and fun dominate the festival landscape in Kansas City. Here’s just a sample of the fun happenings in the City of Fountains.
- Kansas City Chalk and Walk Festival, Sept. 8-9, Kansas City – Watch artists from around the region turn ordinary sections of sidewalk into extraordinary creations during this two-day celebration of art. A special area for the younger set, called Children’s Creative Corridor, gives kids the opportunity to create their own masterpieces. Other activities include educational workshops and street performances. Held at Crown Center, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
- 81st Annual Plaza Art Fair, Sept. 21-23, Kansas City – Considered the official kickoff of the autumn season in Kansas City, the Plaza Art Fair is one of the longest-running art events in the country. You find more than 240 artists, plus live music on three stages. Don’t forget the food –30 restaurants set up shop on the side streets in the Plaza area – and the shopping options offered in this vibrant retail district. Open 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
- 2012 Rhythm & Ribs Jazz and Blues Festival, Oct. 13, Kansas City – This music-and-food-filled event, with performance stages both inside and outside the American Jazz Museum, includes talented singers and musicians such as Angie Stone and Joe Louis Walker. In all, 15 performances are scheduled; gates open at 11 a.m., live music runs from 11 a.m.-10 p.m.
Elsewhere around the northwest region of Missouri, you find these festivals in September:
- Raymore Festival in the Park, Sept. 20-11, Raymore – Memorial Park is the site of this family friendly event which begins with an ice cream social on Thursday. There’s a carnival, activities for kids, free entertainment, vendor booths, a parade, car show, a barbecue contest, plus a pancake breakfast on Saturday. Don’t forget the sand-volleyball tournament, baking contest, dog show, and Civil War demonstration. Join the fun from 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and from 7 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday.
- Jesse James Festival, Sept. 13-16, Kearney – Offers activities such as the Jesse James Territorial Shoot (shooting match), plus a state championship barbecue contest, along with a carnival, parade, street dances, car show, a rodeo, live music, and quick-draw demonstrations. At the Jesse James Festival grounds from 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 7:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday. Note there are related events on Sept. 7, 8 and 11, including a 5K run, a demolition derby and a dinner for senior citizens.
- 34th Annual Higginsville Country Fair, Sept. 9-15, Higginsville – Get ready for a week of events including an antique road show, art exhibits, a talent show, an ice-cream social, live music, parades, a pedal-tractor pull, petting zoo and washers tournament, to name just a few. Held in downtown Higginsville; activities run 9 a.m.-9 p.m. (or later) most days.
- Santa Fe Trail Days Festival, Sept. 14-15, New Franklin – New Franklin celebrates its link to the Santa Fe Trail with arts and crafts vendors, food, live music, games for kids and a parade complete with marching bands. Be on the lookout for reenactors in period dress. Held in the downtown area, 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.
- Blue Springs Fall Fun Festival, Sept. 14-16, Blue Springs – Find nearly 300 vendor booths at this celebration of the fall season. Activities along West Main Street include a parade, carnival, petting zoo, live musical performances, a hot-dog-eating contest and a poker tournament. Lots of food – think turkey legs and barbecue – will be available. Join the fun from 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday.
- Oktoberfest, Sept. 28-30, Lee’s Summit – Ok, so, it’s not quite October; this festival is so much fun, organizers couldn’t wait to get started. Activities abound on and around the 200 block of Main Street, where you find everything from arts and crafts booths to traditional German food and music. There’s live music and plenty of carnival rides to enjoy. Activities are 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday; the carnival continues operating from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
All those activities combined certainly add up to a September you’re sure to remember. Now, let’s get ready for October, a great time for cooler weather, fall color and a break before the rush of the busy holiday season.
- Missouri Town 1855 Fall Festival, Oct. 6-7, Lee’s Summit – Join in the celebration of the 1850s with music, dance, games for children, period arts and crafts, horse-drawn buggy rides and hayrides. Oh, and the hot spiced cider is a treat your taste buds will enjoy. Admission is $9 per vehicle; $20 for buses. Activities are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
- 24th Annual Weston Applefest, Oct. 6-7, Weston – Watch demonstrations of lost arts such as candle-making, wood turning, and leather tanning as you stroll among the craft and artisans booths downtown. Weston’s famous apple dumplings are available, as are apple pies and cookies. Activities include a parade, pony rides, carnival-style games and pumpkin painting. Held along Main Street from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday.
- Smithville Octoberfest, Oct. 12-13, Smithville – Hear live music on two stages, watch the parade, browse crafts from more than 100 vendors, check out the quilt show, and let the kids run off energy in the children’s area. Held on West Main Street from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday.
- Weston Irish Festival, Oct. 12-14, Weston – Just a week after its popular Applefest, Weston comes alive again, this time with the sounds of Irish tunes; in all, 17 bands from the U.S., Canada and Ireland will perform. Traditional Irish foods, including corned beef, will be served, as will regional festival favorites such as pulled-pork sandwiches and loaded baked potatoes. Most activities happen in and around O’Malley’s Irish Pub and Courtyard; Friday, noon-midnight, Saturday, 11 a.m.-midnight, and Sunday, noon-10 p.m.
- Missouri Day Festival, Oct. 20-21, Trenton – Missouri Day is a celebration of the state’s heritage, culture and citizens’ achievements. Although it falls on Wednesday, Trenton celebrates the following weekend with activities such as a car show, quilt show, Atlatl (spear throwing) tournament, a parade and a competition featuring marching bands from across Missouri. Activities are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday near downtown.
- 7th Annual Harvest Moon Festival, Oct. 27, Peculiar – This family event includes lots of vendors and food, a costume contest, pony rides, a petting zoo and inflatables where kids can burn off some energy. Live entertainment and a parade are part of the fun; held downtown from 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
There you have it; a look at some of the festivals happening in northwest Missouri this fall. For more information about events, plus attractions, restaurants, places to stay and other things to do, log on to VisitMO.com, the official website of the Missouri Division of Tourism.