With the trail of Halloween candy beyond the horizon, the Thanksgiving season begins in earnest. This month, harvest festivals begin to peter out and what other fairs are scheduled (many of them seafood related) are front-loaded to leave us as much time as possible to prepare for, then recover from, Thanksgiving.
Denver International Wine Festival, Denver, Colo., Nov. 2-6: Beer may be Colorado’s unofficial beverage of choice, but it certainly isn’t the only option. This seventh annual wine fete proves it by expanding to accommodate attendees. This year’s celebration of the grape will be held at the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum and will include a vertical tasting (the sampling of consecutive vintages for the detailing of a drink’s evolution), a cheese-pairing workshop and seminars like “Moscato, Surrender to the Sweet,” led by Andrew Quady. Chefs will tussle during the food and wine pairing competition and you’ll win — because if wine is involved, there are no losers.
Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cook-Off, Terlingua, Texas, Nov. 3-5. When it comes to chili competitions, there can be only one winner, and it’s this Texas festival, which is also the inspiration for the Chili’s Grill & Bar chain. The three-day chili bout includes categories in chicken, beef, black-eyed peas, brisket and beans (yes, beans are welcome). Other competitions on the docket are an ugly hat contest, a margarita mix-off and a golf shootout. The ultimate champion will be announced at 4 p.m. Sunday, followed by some boot-scootin’ boogie for the more than 10,000 chili-heads in attendance.
Florida Seafood Festival, Apalachicola, Fla., Nov. 4-5: What’s a food festival without an eating contest? Usually, not a very good one. Thankfully, this Panhandle city’s celebration has the difficult oyster-eating bout, where those who can keep down the bivalve bounty can consume up to 300 oysters in 15 minutes. Prior to the event highlight is the shucking competition, where contestants vie not for quantity but quality. The victor goes on to compete in the national championship. Both events follow the Redfish Run, the 5,000-meter road race starting at the 1907 Gibson Inn.
World Championship Punkin Chunkin, Bridgeville, Del., Nov. 4-6: Like the Terlingua event, this Mid-Atlantic shindig is one of the classic November festivals. The Punkin Chunkin attracts thousands of people to either participate in or witness the launching of overgrown gourds via extraordinary catapults and cannons 4,000 feet skyward. Take a sip of Punkin Ale developed in honor of the festival by nearby Dogfish Head Brewing Company and camp onsite ($65 daily, $175 for the duration) so as to not miss one second of this smashing festival.
Rayne Frog Festival, Rayne, La., Nov. 9-13: Sure to be a hoppin’ good time — if you’ll pardon the pun — this 39th annual amphibian fete brings out an army for more than frogs’ legs. The highlight of the festival, aside from the frogs’ legs, is the Lions’ Frog Derby best-dressed frog competition, for which the creatures are gussied up in handmade costumes with their handlers (jockeys) dressed in coordinating threads. Not to be outdone is the Frog Racing and Jumping contest. Pageants, a parade and high-flying midway thrills round out this five-day fair.
International Pickle Day, New York, N.Y., Nov. 13: This year, the 11th annual Pickle Day is expanding festivities from the New York Food Museum in partnership with the New Amsterdam Market. While the main event will remain on the Lower East Side, further downtown the pickling of more than mere cucumbers will be feted with demonstrations and historical presentation. Expect plum pickles, pickled ginger and pickled garlic as some of the more exotic offerings primed for munching. It will be dill-lightful!
Lincoln City Chowder Cook-Off, Lincoln City, Ore., Nov. 13: To think chowder an East Coast delicacy is giving the versatile belly-warmer short shrift. From sea to shining sea as temperatures cool, chowder becomes a dinner-table staple for busy families. In Oregon, chowder is a sport. Each year, area chefs and restaurateurs gather at Lincoln City to tussle for judgment by peers and people in clam and general seafood categories. Admission is free; however, samples will set you back 50 cents and portion sizes $3.
Foods and Feasts of Colonial Virginia at Jamestown Settlement, Williamsburg, Va., Nov. 24-26: Among the few festivals that could get away with running concurrently with Thanksgiving, this event gives visitors a glimpse into life as it was during the era of the first Thanksgiving. The historical exhibit will present the manner in which food was gathered, preserved and prepared by English colonists and Powhatan Indians. Game will be roasted over an open fire and vegetable stews cooked in clay pots will be prepared in the Powhatan Indian village. Especially exciting is the processing of a whole hog into ham and bacon.