For Hillary Fink, this fall is less about pumpkins and more about carrots.
The longtime organizer of Congregation Agudat Achim’s Carrot Festival has spent the last few months helping to bring back the popular Niskayuna festival on Sunday, Oct. 10.
Usually held in September, the festival’s mix of delectable carrot cake, tasty tsimmes, and a full roster of children’s activities have brought in thousands of people over the course of its 43 years. Even last year, organizers persisted through the pandemic, holding a pared-down drive-thru version of the event. This time, it’ll look a bit closer to a traditional festival, with a few key changes.
“We’ve still been keeping in mind that even though there’s no limits we’re still in the middle of a pandemic,” said organizer Fink. “We want to be safe, not only for our volunteers who are working but for the people who are coming. So we continue to be really careful in planning this year.”
Live music won’t be part of the festival and organizers have limited the number of vendors and children’s activities. That’s not to say there won’t be plenty for kids and families to do. Kids can go on pony rides, see a reptile display, partake in miSci activities and have the chance to explore an airplane from the Empire State Aerosciences Museum in Glenville as well as the News 10 ABC Storm Tracker.
As the name suggests, food tends to be the star of the show and this year is no different. Festival volunteers have prepared 700 carrot cakes to serve up, and they’ll also offer potato latkes, chicken shawarma, a Carrot Festival brisket sandwich and a Mediterranean platter (falafel, hummus, pita and tahini sauce) among other options. Food will be served to-go and there will be a drive-thru option for carrot cake and produce.
Slated to run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the festival will also feature a CDTA “Stuff the Bus” event and organizers are asking for specific items to be donated to local non-profit organizations (the full list is available at Agudatachim.com). Carrot Festival is dedicated to Rose Westheimer, one of the festival founders who died earlier this year.
Further afield, in Saratoga Springs, Fall Festivities return this year with a mix of in-person and virtual programs.
Hosted by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, the celebration will be span two weekends (Oct. 23-24 and Oct. 30-31) instead of one.
“COVID is still present and this is a big event for the kids. So we just really wanted to make sure people were trickling downtown rather than coming in mass gatherings,” said organizer Caelen Brott.
While the festivities won’t include the traditional pumpkin roll, organizers are bringing back the Great Saratoga Pumpkin Hunt. Ten pumpkins, each decorated with historic Spa City landmarks by artist Cathi Anne M. Cameron, will be spread out in store-front windows downtown. Attendees that find them all and turn in a completed sheet to Kilwins or Impressions of Saratoga will be entered to win a Saratoga Springs prize package.
“We think we’re just going to bring the scavenger hunt back every year because we got a great response from it last year,” Brott said.
The festivities will also include pumpkin painting sessions at Scallions, which will run each day of the festival except the last Sunday. Registration is required through Scallions.
Joe Haedrich of Haunted Saratoga will give virtual tours of Hattie’s restaurant and the Adelphi Hotel via the DBA’s Facebook page (@downtownsaratogasprings). The costume party photo booth and costume contest will also return this year at the Spa City Motor Lodge parking lot. Performers like Crazy Christine Balloons, Sean “The Prankster” Magician, Mr. Twisty and Sparkles the Juggler will be out and about downtown throughout the festivities.
For the full schedule, visit saratogaspringsdowntown.com.
Beyond the festivals, orchards and farms across the region are playing host to more fall traditions.
“It has been [popular], especially when it’s a nice day,” said Isabel Prescott of Riverview Orchards in Rexford. “Last weekend was wonderful because [people] like to have a little crispness in the air and just that fall feeling.”
This week there’s a mix of McIntosh, Empire, Cortland and Macoun apples for visitors to pluck. To get there, visitors can take a hayride into the orchard.
Prescott decided to bring back the popular bee display this season after removing it for COVID-19 concerns last year. It was first installed in 1990 as a way for kids to learn about the bees that help pollinate the orchard and it became a mainstay at the establishment, with young visitors trying to catch a glimpse of the queen bee.
Prescott also brought back the corn maze, rather than the hay maze Riverview hosted prior to the pandemic.
“It just seemed like something new that kids could do outside…[and] they could be apart from each other. It was just so popular we decided to continue it,” Prescott said. For hours and more information, visit rivervieworchards.com.
In Johnstown, Rogers Family Orchard is busy pressing 800 to 900 gallons of cider each week. Then there’s the you-pick apples, the corn maze, farm animals and more.
“The season is always good for us, but last year was an exception because nobody had anything to do . . . the business was up quite a bit,” said owner Todd Rogers. “This year it’s still really busy but not as busy as last year.”
The orchard, at 260 County Highway 131, has Empire, Cortland, Gala and other apple varieties ready for picking this week and soon will have a Snapdragon variety. The latter is similar to Honey Crisp in terms of sweetness, though it’s a bit smaller. For more information, call 518-762-8736.
In Ballston Spa, Elms Family Farm has continued on a pandemic-born tradition: drive-thru experiences. Throughout the month of October, the farm is playing host to the Pumpkin Glow & Light Show, which features large, glowing jack-o-lantern displays, including a farm scene, an alien scene and a Christmas in October scene among others.
More than 10,000 cars came through the show last year and the farm’s communications director, Kimmy Jaski, said that with all the uncertainties that remain with the pandemic, they felt like they had to bring the Pumpkin Glow back.
“We thought that it made sense to do the event again and give people a place to be able to enjoy the Halloween spirit and be safe and enjoy it from the comfort of their own car,” Jaski said.
Tickets run from $26.99 to $66.99 per car. It runs Thursdays-Saturdays in October, as well as Sunday, Oct. 10 and 31. For hours and more information, visit ellmsfarms.com.
Here’s a look at some other fall events coming up in the Capital Region:
Maple Ski Ridge in Schenectady will host a Fall Fest on Saturday, Oct. 9. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. the grounds will be filled with vintage cars and tractors both new and old. There’ll also be a craft show and flea market, as well as chair lift rides and hay wagon rides. All attendees will go through a COVID screening prior to entering. There will be a $5 entry fee per car. For more information visit mapleskiridge.com.
The Wilton Wildlife Preserve & Park will host several walks and hikes throughout the month, including a Nature on the Move walks on Oct. 4 and 18, as well as a Moonlight Hike on Oct. 19, among others. To register, call 518-450-0321 or email [email protected]
The Schenectady County Historical Society will hold Candlelight Walking Tours of the Stockade District on Oct. 14, 15, 21, 22, 28 and 29 starting at 32 Washington Ave. Tickets are $13 for either of two available tours: Colonial Hauntings at 6:30 p.m. and Ghostly Victorian at 7:30 p.m. which feature different stories and venture through different parts of the neighborhood. Candlelight Tours are co-sponsored by the Schenectady Heritage Foundation. Pre-registration is required at schenectadyhistorical.org/programs. Space is limited. Refreshments and live music will follow.
Wintergreen Park Harvest Festival runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9 in Canajoharie. Hosted by the Friends of Wintergreen Park, it’s slated to include a craft fair, free crafts for kids, food and more. For more information, visit Wintergreen Park Harvest Festival on Facebook.
The Hollowed Harvest has returned to the Altamont Fairgrounds, with new jack-o-lantern displays and vendors. Attendees can tour the grounds and see displays stretching as tall as two stories high and 50 feet in length. There are scarecrow displays along with a towering Titanic display, among others. Tours take around 35 to 40 minutes to walk, and during select days there will be cider donut vendors and tarot card readers. The show runs from Thursdays through Sundays through Halloween. General admission tickets are $20 for adults and $16 for kids ages 4 and up. For hours and more information, visit HollowedHarvest.com.