As the summer draws to a close, the days remain warm but nights grow colder. Fresh green summer produce makes way for squash, apples, and of course…pumpkins! New England is well-known for its full experience of the four seasons. As locals know especially well, autumn draws in scores of leaf-peepers, Halloween enthusiasts, and festival-goers. The Monadnock region of New Hampshire, specifically, is a spectacular place to celebrate the joy of fall and peak harvest season. Here are a few of the autumn events and fall festivals that make this region special!
Milford Pumpkin Festival
The Milford Pumpkin Festival is one of the most anticipated and well-attended fall festivals in the Monadnock region. For good reason, too – the festival is three days long! This well-known celebration has been in the pumpkin scene for over 30 years. Now, the Granite Town Festivities Committee organizes the extravaganza. The non-profit organization is completely run by volunteers. Talk about a love of fall!
The Milford festival’s signature events include the Haunted Trail, the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-in Contest, pumpkin painting, pumpkin sales, the Pumpkin Catapult, and scarecrow making. Several food vendors, artisans, and crafters set up tents with wonderful items to try and explore. For adults, there is a Tasting Tent where people flock to enjoy beer, wine, and spirits.
And of course, the weekend is full of live music and performances. The festival has ongoing entertainment from not one or two, but three stages! Because the festival is located in Milford’s historic downtown, the historical society offers walking tours as part of the festivities.
Admission and parking are free, and shuttle buses take you from parking lots to pumpkins. If you want to experience the glee of harvest season in New England, this festival is it!
Keene Pumpkin Festival
Another fall festival run completely by volunteers, the Keene Pumpkin Festival happens in October! The event is a fundraiser – proceeds go to local nonprofit organizations. And true to the community feel of the region, several businesses join in the festivities. They often participate in offering activities, performances, and events.
The main attraction of the Keene festival is the massive jack-o-lantern display. Thousands of carvers join forces to create stacks upon stacks of creatively carved pumpkins. Over the years, the festival has, several times, broken the record for most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place. In 2013, the Keene community achieved 30,581 lit lanterns.
Additionally, there’s some interesting history to note about the Keene Pumpkin Festival! The town took a few years hiatus after Keene State College Students rioted at the 2014 festival. Community members rekindled the yearly celebration in 2017. The story on that here.
Hillsborough Harvest Festival
Say hello to a comparatively newer harvest festival. This local, family-friendly event takes place on Hillsborough’s Grimes Field. Food trucks, nonprofits, and vendors all convene to turn a usually sparse grass and baseball field into a celebration of fall and community!
The festival focuses on local (New Hampshire) vendors. And of course, no family-oriented festival could be complete without games, arts & crafts, and prizes!
Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour
The Fall Foliage Art Studio Tour (FFAST) is where leaf-peeping and art-loving unite! Every year during Columbus Day weekend, artists in a handful of neighboring towns open up their personal studios for the public to see. Unlike its neighbor, the Monadnock Art Studio Tour, FFAST is self-guided. Accordingly, details on each of the fine artist studios are posted on their website for explorers to make their plans. Discover sculpture, painting, glass-blowing, drawing, quilting, pottery, woodworking, and more.
The beginning of October is a beautiful time to appreciate New England’s – indeed, the Monadnock region’s! – famous fall foliage season. Let your eyes take in the same bursts of color and serenity of nature that inspire these local artists to create.
And there’s so much to see while driving from studio to studio! There are several stops to take in that quintessential New England small town feel. Rindge, Keene, New Ipswich, and Antrim are just a few towns on the art tour’s map.
Monadnock Art Studio Tour
The Monadnock Art Studio Tour advertises itself as being New England’s oldest and largest weekend art tour. Much like other events on this list, folks from all over the east coast and beyond get excited for this tour. Over 60 artists across several of the region’s towns open their studios to the public. Explore more quaint Marlborough, Jaffrey, Dublin, Peterborough, and more!
Each studio has its number along the mapped out scenic New England route. The studios are open from 10-5 each day of Columbus Day weekend. This leaves ample time for beautiful countryside drives bursting with orange and red trees. Distinctive art tour signs guide drivers to home studios often hidden from plain sight. Meet and chat with all kinds of artists! There are potters, painters, printmakers, photographers, glassblowers, sculptors, and woodworkers!
If you’re planning a visit to New Hampshire or the Monadnock region in October, be sure to add these fall festivals and art tours to your list! For other fall season goodies, check out 3 Creepy Places to Explore Outdoors or a Haunted Hangout in Wilton. Or, for the more artistically inclined, read more about art tours, Monadnock region arts communities, and our talented local artists!