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Fall Fests

A cornucopia of events spread throughout the Heartland add to the boating opportunities with their autumn-inspired flavors and attractions.

Boomsday in Knoxville, Tenn.

Boomsday in Knoxville, Tenn.

Marked by a pleasant change of color and climate, fall offers boaters in the Midwest a chance to enjoy their favorite pastime from a whole new perspective. What’s more, a variety of annual festivals spread throughout the region add to the seasonal opportunities with their autumn-inspired flavor and attractions. No, it’s not too late to embark on a final cruise this year to one of these unique waterside events — or too early to plan ahead for next year!

MISSISSIPPI RIVER
Is Bavarian heritage your thing? Try the nationally recognized Guttenberg Germanfest in Guttenbrg, Iowa, on September 20 and 21. Named one of the Top 10 events in the state, this event features music like Barefoot Becky and the Ivanhoe Dutchmen and the Guttenberg German Band. There are also appearances by the Dubuque Cloggers and UNI German Dancers, a wiener-dog race, brat-eating contest and open-air market. www.germanfestinguttenberg.com

September 6 to 8 are the dates for the annual Dubuque Dragon Boat Festival at Miller Riverview Park in Dubuque, Iowa. As many as 35 teams and 700 participants come from a number of states and countries to compete. IN addition to races, the event promotes cultural exchanges between the foreign and local teams and educates the public on the Asian culture associated with the boats. www.dubuquedragonboat.org

A two-week celebration of arts, culture and heritage in the Quad Cities takes place from September 6 to 22. The East West Riverfest occupies almost 100 music venues, galleries, historic sites and parks on both sides of the river. Featured are the Beaux Arts Fair, Quad City Symphony Orchestra’s Riverside Pops Concert and Viva Quad Cities. Also wrapped into this event is the Celtic Games and Highland Festival. Traditional competitions, bagpiping, storytelling, sheep herding exhibitions and a parade of tartans all play a part. www.eastwestriverfest.com

ILLINOIS RIVER
Peoria, Ill., offers a couple of fall fests, including Oktoberfest, which, strangely, is held from September 20 to 22. The annual event promotes German culture in the area through song, sport, food, drink and fellowship — complete with the Das Bier Run. www.peoriagermans.net/oktoberfest.html

The Fine Art Fair, September 28 to 29, finishes the season, with some 150 artists from 26 states and Canada displaying their creations along the Peoria riverfront. Featured activities include a community mural and children’s art corner. www.peoriafineartfair.com

OHIO RIVER
West Virginia river buffs will enjoy the Wheeling Heritage Port Sternwheel Festival, September 12 to 14. Besides the boats, there’s plenty of music and an “Anything that Floats” race offering $600 in prizes. www.sternwheeling.org

Each September since 1975, the American Sternwheel Association has held its Ohio River Sternwheel Festival in Marietta, Ohio. It’s the largest gathering of paddlewheel vessels in the world, and the event usually draws more than 30 for the races. It’s also known for great music. The dates are September 6 to 8 this year. www.ohioriversternwheelfestival.org

One of Indiana’s oldest festivals is the Aurora Farmer’s Fair, held from October 2 to 5 this year. It dates back to 1908. Happily, it’s what you’d expect: exhibits, rides, collectibles, fair and stage entertainment, a parade and even Grandpa Cratchet. www.aurorafarmersfair.org

Celebrate the “musical fruit” at the Navy Bean Fall Festival in Rising Sun, Ind. Listed as “one of Indiana’s most unique events,” the featured attraction is the namesake soup and homemade cornbread, along with a parade, entertainment and a 5K run/walk. www.navybeanfestival.org

The Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art, September 28 to 29, is a premier outdoor, juried fine arts and crafts event. It has more than 200 American artists and craftsmen’s work on display, plus eclectic musical acts. There’s a strict no-pets policy. www.madisonchautauqua.com

See the world without leaving Louisville, Ky., at the three-day WorldFest. Held over Labor Day weekend, it features international music, dance, food, a global village and parade of cultures. www.louisvilleky.gov/globalization/worldfest

CUMBERLAND RIVER
Perhaps the most unusual festival location occurs at Wine on the River in Nashville, Tenn. It takes place on the Shelby Street Pedestrian Bridge on September 14. For one day, you can travel to 10 different regions around the globe — sampling the wine, beer, spirits and food of those regions — all without your feet touching solid earth. www.wineontheriver.com

TENNESSEE RIVER
Riverfest in Decatur, Ala., is an annual KCBS-sanctioned barbeque competition and music festival. It’s been featured on national television and is recognized as one of the top events in the state. Established by the Decatur Jaycees, it has raised more than $100,000 for charities. It’ll be held on September 13 and 14 this year. www.decaturjaycees.com/riverfest-2012

There’s two miles of public viewing along the river for what has become known as the nation’s largest Labor Day weekend firework show: the Boomsday Festival in Knoxville, Tenn. Events start at 1 p.m. and end with “jaw-dropping fireworks,” accompanied by a choreographed show of patriotic and contemporary music. www.boomsday.org

TENN-TOMBIGBEE WATERWAY
How about a street dance at the Tenn-Tom boat ramp in Burnsville, Miss.? That starts the Burnsville Waterway Festival on September 28. Attractions include a car show, 5K run, arts and crafts, food and live entertainment. www.burnsvillems.com/id15.html            

GULF INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY - EAST
Spread out all along the Alabama/Florida Gulf Coast for 10 days in November is the Frank Brown International Songwriter’s Festival. This is a gathering of more than 200 songwriters, musicians and performers. There are a variety of venues in several towns, ranging in varying degrees of intimacy, and most are free. www.fbisf.com

The inaugural Apalachicola Riverfront Film Festival will be held on October 22. Surrounded by candlelight, beautifully decorated linen-covered tables and plenty of grassy seating, you can enjoy gourmet cuisine, fine wines and beverages while you watch a variety of local, national, student and cultural independent films. www.apalachicolabay.org/index.cfm/pageid/37/fuseaction/calendar.includedListEventDetail/dsn/ssicmt149/eventId/653#.Ug6UpYVMiHk

GULF INTRACOASTAL WATERWAY – WEST
The oldest certified festival in the state is the Louisiana Shrimp & Petroleum Festival, which emphasizes how the two industries work together. There are cooking competitions, as well as zydeco, country and pop music, and more than 100 craftsmen displaying items from homemade Cyprus furniture to garfish jewelry. It’s held over Labor Day weekend in Morgan City. www.shrimp-petrofest.org

The largest four-day motorcycle meeting in the country is the Lone Star Rally in Galveston, Texas, from October 31 to November 3 this year. It attracts more than 500,000 cyclists to watch the bike shows, live concerts and check out the goods at hundreds of vendors. www.lonestarrally.com

Visit Rockport, Texas, from October 11 to 13 for its Rockport Seafair. You’ll find gumbo-cooking contests — including a “no rules” one where anything goes — cardboard boat and crab races, and a waterski show. The kickoff event is called Sea-A-Bration. Gumbo, bands and crabs…oh my! www.rockportseafair.com

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