It almost seems like every weekend a new festival pops up or blocks off a street – but some stand out among the rest. From bacon to beer and pumpkins, too, we’ve rounded up the best of the best in the Midwest in food fests.
WINDY CITY WINE FESTIVAL
Chicago | Sept. 8-9
No need to travel to wine country to taste the finest wines from around the world. A quick stop at the Buckingham Fountain with a $50 ticket ($40 in advance) will get you 20 tastings from more than 300 wines. Tickets also include a tasting wine glass, music, seminars and more. A designated driver ticket is available for $15, and features two non-alcoholic drinks and a tasting wine glass souvenir. For those interested in an upgrade, a Cadillac Connoisseurs Club Ticket is available for $120 in advance or $140 at the gate, and includes access to the VIP tent, exclusive wines, as well as hors d’oeuvres and small plate foods. For more information, visit windycitywinefestival.com.
KENTUCKY STATE BBQ FESTIVAL
Danville, Kentucky | Sept. 8-10
You might have to make a bit more of a trek for this one, but the weekend is usually capped off with an eating triathlon and barbecue slip-and-slide, so who can say no? Held this year at the Wilderness Trail Distillery, the event will feature Kentucky’s finest barbecue, beer and bourbon. For more information, visit kybbqfestival.com.
MORTON PUMPKIN FESTIVAL
Morton | Sept. 13-16
Hosted in the “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” the Morton Pumpkin Festival has no shortage of treats, activities and competitions all revolving around the beloved pumpkin. After being inaugurated in 1967, the festival now welcomes more than 70,000 visitors to the grounds each year and features a pumpkin parade, bike tour, the Pumpkin Classic Walk and Run, a craft fair, pumpkin princess pageant, boxcar derby, pie-eating contest and more. For more information, visit mortonpumpkinfestival.org.
WORLD FOOD AND WINE FESTIVAL
Des Moines, Iowa | Sept. 15-17
Head to downtown Des Moines for a weekend full of food and drinks from more than 25 countries around the world. Food ranges from Dumping Darling (Korean) and Karam’s Grill (Moroccan) to Pupusas (Salvodoran) and Chocolaterie Stam (Dutch), while music entertainment will be highlighted by the Bottle Rockets and Walker McGuire. The event is free to attend, while tastes cost $1 and all entrees are $6 or less. For more information, visit Worldfoodandmusicfestival.org.
SAM ADAMS TACO FEST
Lakeview, Chicago | Sept. 16-17
For one weekend, the Southport Corridor is turning into a taco heaven. Chorizo, chicken, steak, beef or something more imaginative, they’ve got it all at the Sam Adams Taco Fest. Local favorites like Tuco and Blondie, Taco Joint and D.S. Tequila have joined in on the fun this year. In addition to food, the festival also features two music stages, Mexican wrestlers and activities for kids. Each visitor is also invited to vote for “Chicago’s Best Taco.” Admission is a $10 recommended donation to the Friends of Lakeview and the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce. For more information, visit Lakeviewtacofest.com.
River Falls, Wisconsin | Sept. 16-17
There’s no such thing as too much bacon, and River Falls’ Bacon Bash exemplifies that notion. The two-day fest highlights local restaurants’ bacon dishes, which can range from bacon-wrapped dates to pig wings. It’s not just the food that’s pig-related – there also are pig races, a pet costume parade and even plastic pigs floating down the Kinnickinnic River. Don’t miss out on your chance to go hog wild with more than 60 merchandise vendors and local microbrews and wines at this epic event. For more information, visit riverfallsbaconbash.com.
GREAT LAKES BREW FEST
Racine, Wisconsin | Sept. 16
Throw back local Midwest brews while chilling on the shores of Lake Michigan at the Racine Zoo’s Great Lakes Brew Fest. With more than 250 beers to be enjoyed from more than 100 brewers and brew clubs, there’s literally something for everyone. Tickets cost $50 per adult and $18 for a designated driver, while VIP admission is $89. All paid attendees receive a souvenir drinking glass, and music will be provided by the Kilties Drum and Bugle Corps. For more information, visit greatlakesbrewfest.com.
Minocqua, Wisconsin | Sept. 30
Name any kind of beef – they’ve got it. For 50 years, the streets of Minocqua have been flooded for the annual Beef-a-Rama, which kicks off with attendees dressed up as cows for the 10K and 5K Rump Roast Run and Walk. More than 70 vendors attend the fest, which also features a beef-eating contest, a cow pie shop, chainsaw carving exhibition, mechanical bull and much more. If beef is your thing, this is the place to be. For more information, visit minocqua.org.
Galesville, Wisconsin | Oct. 7
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, you may as well live forever after visiting Galesville’s Apple Affair, which has been a staple event in the community since 1983. Held the first weekend in October, the fest kicks off with a massive breakfast in the square, and is followed up by a 10-foot pie baked specifically for the fest. But it’s not just about the food, there’s a craft show, music and the highlight, the Apple Affair Bike Tour. The tour can range from six to 75 miles and showcases the area’s orchards and scenic roads. For more information, visit galesvillewi.com/appleaffair.php.
SMOKIN’ BBQ FESTIVAL
Decatur | Oct. 6-7
Founder LaVell Peete first started this fest in 2015 in honor of his mother, Selma (Knox) Peete, who – he claims – was the best cook ever. Now, the full-fledged barbeque festival features the best barbeque from local vendors, as well as a food competition for locals. In addition to barbecue, there’s bourbon and craft beer tastings, a car show and plenty of prizes for the Backyard and People’s Choice barbecue competitions. All proceeds from this event (after expenses) will go toward the Selma (Knox) Peete Scholarship fund, which helps students attend Richland Community College’s culinary program. For more information, visit Dsbbq.com.