Labor Day may signal the official end of summer, but it doesn’t mean the end of fun or some long standing American traditions—food festivals. Many of them continue through October in cities and small towns across America. Watch my report on CBS This Morning for my favorite food festivals…ranging from potatoes to stone crabs, from bourbon and beer to bacon.
Grand Forks, North Dakota
Now in its 51st season, Potato Bowl USA is a great festival honoring all things potato. It takes place every year in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and this year nearly 10,000 people will attend. You want red potatoes? They’re all about redskin potatoes. In fact, they are the largest red potato growers in the world. Last year, they grew more than 500 million pounds of potatoes. This year, they feature the world’s largest french fry feed—with nearly 6,000 pounds of french fries—and they’re free. There’s a football game, a parade, and even a baked potato bar. More than 10,000 people will show up—hopefully hungry. But it’s not just the potatoes—the region has some of the most beautiful lakes in the country. Surprisingly, there are some pretty terrific vineyards as well.
Redondo Beach, CA
Southern California’s 21st annual Redondo Beach Lobster Festival takes place at Seaside Lagoon. Redondo Beach is one of the three great beach cities of Los Angeles—Hermosa and Manhattan Beach are the other two. It’s got a great revitalized downtown area, but the real attraction here is the beach, which is great for activities such as surfing and volleyball. From September 23 through 25, it’s lobster. They’re expecting about 11,000 people this year and this is all lobster, all the time. Think of a great beachfront location combined with lobster guacamole and chips, lobster corn chowder, lobster mac n’ cheese, lobster tacos, lobster stuffed quesadillas, and lobster rolls. For fun, there are the lobster ladies: they are a main attraction for repeat attendees. You can take pictures or even learn how to paddle board with them.
Brooklyn has become one of the new foodie capitals of America. It may be just a borough of New York City, but it has had more new restaurants open in the past three years than most other cities. You can find every conceivable kind of food, including one that is now celebrated—bacon. Since everything is better with bacon, there’s a festival that pays tribute to all things bovine. The Great Big Bacon Picnic takes place in New York’s Williamsburg neighborhood from September 24-25. You can find thick cut, thin cut, smoked, and uncured bacon. There’s even a bacon catch—they throw bacon at you—it’s called the Bacon Toss, and you have to catch it in your mouth. To give you an idea of how seriously they take their bacon, there’s even something called the Great Big Food Coma Napping Area. Additionally, ten percent of the proceeds go to City Harvest.
Bowling Green, KY
Bowling Green, Kentucky, which is only about 70 miles from Nashville, has a population of 62,000. The rest of the state may be about horses, but in Bowling Green it’s all about horsepower. It’s where Corvettes are made—and you can also visit the Corvette Museum, which has 80 classic models on display. But you’ll also want to check out the Bowling Green Bourbon and Brewfest in October. It’s not just bourbon in Kentucky (their signature alcohol), but beer. Imagine 14 separate crafted bourbons (some brands you know, some you don’t). Then there are more than 21 artisanal breweries represented, most with names you’ve never heard, ranging from Against the Grain to Dogfish Head to White Squirrel. Are you worried about being, uh, overserved? The festival folks have an answer: you’re given only a certain number of tokens, and that limits how much you can drink. On top of that, the festival provides designated drivers.
New Orleans, LA
In New Orleans, which never needs an excuse for a party, there’s the Crescent City Blues and BBQ Festival from October 14 to 16. This is a relatively new festival—a non-profit organization runs it and admission is free. In fact, it was started after Hurricane Katrina to help create more jobs and to celebrate New Orleans’ culture. A total of 18 bands will play over a span of three days. Then there’s the barbecue—no muffaletas or beignets here, this is a true New Orleans-style barbecue, which means spicy.
Naples is a top golf destination, and is considered a sublime bird watching location and has a great beach with incredible seashells. But from October 28 through 30, Naples is the stone crab capital of the world during the Stone Crab Festival. In fact, this is the seventh year they’ve done this, and it features the inaugural cracking of the first stone crab of the season. Then the festivities begin with more than 14,000 pounds of fresh stone crab being consumed. But it’s not just about the crabs—it’s the water sightseeing, and both jet ski and boat rentals are available. Don’t forget the ice cream eating contest—the winner gets free ice cream for a year.
For more information about foodie destinations around the world, check out:
- Can’t-Miss International Food Halls
- Discovering Food & Wine in San Luis Obispo County
- Food Events Where You Can Meet the Farmers
By Peter Greenberg for PeterGreenberg.com