It’s mid-September. The Pirates are locked in an honest-to-goodness, bare-knuckle pennant race, giving starved Bucco fans a reason to cheer past Labor Day. The Steelers are back on the gridiron and will hopefully have better luck over the next weeks than they had the first two. The grass is finally not growing like weeds anymore (?), and the thermometer has been just low enough on a few mornings to put a quick bounce in your step. Yep, hey Mike, Mike, Mike…. guess what season it is?
It’s fall – that glorious time of the year in Western Pennsylvania, when colors are ablaze, leaves are fluttering and weekend events are plentiful across Washington County. For visitors, longtime locals and newly acquainted locals, fall weekends are the perfect time to get out and enjoy the countryside during the most beautiful season of the region. And this weekend is a big one!
It all starts Friday night with beer, bands and bratwurst, as the 15th annual Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest takes over the streets of Canonsburg. Keeping the traditional Oktoberfest theme, the festival features plenty of German food and entertainment while adding that extra fun twist that only Canonsburg can provide. Lace up your lederhosen, buff up the button box, and belt out “Ein Prosit” on Pike Street, as Oktoberfest comes to Washington County!
The autumnal celebration then takes to the countryside with the granddaddy of them all, the 43rd annual Washington & Greene Counties Covered Bridge Festival. Each of 10 distinctly different festival locations and covered bridge sites offers an array of activities, including handmade arts and crafts, homestyle foods, historical reenactments, crafting demonstrations and toe-tapping entertainment. Beginning in 1970 at four bridge sites (Carmichaels, Ebenezer, Hughes and Pine Bank) that drew 20 vendors and 2,000 visitors, the covered bridge festival now attracts hundreds of vendors to 10 locations that host more than 150,000 visitors each year. Combined with Oktoberfest, Washington County hosts more visitors the third weekend of September than any other time of the year.
Speaking of October, two more “fests” celebrate their 30th anniversaries this year and are favorites for locals and visitors alike. The Hickory Apple Festival takes to the streets Oct. 5-6, featuring crafters, entertainment, and, of course, apples of every shape, variety and recipe while benefiting the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Company. Just down the road a piece on Oct. 11- 13, the Houston Pumpkin Festival boasts something for everyone at their family-oriented arts, crafts, food and entertainment festival, sponsored by the Houston Volunteer Company.
Fall fun is everywhere in Washington County. September and October are alive with activities focused on getting out and getting into fall. The Montour Trail hosts “Tour the Montour” on Sept. 21, drawing riders to the trail that connects all the way with the Great Allegheny Passage. Meadowcroft Rockshelter and Historic Village hosts its American Indian Heritage Weekend the last weekend in September, transporting visitors back to the time of the native peoples of the Upper Ohio Valley. Places like Trax Farms, Bedner’s Farm & Greenhouse, Simmons Farm and The Spring House, along with many parks and townships, host fall festivals and events throughout September and October. The Pennsylvania Trolley Museum boards the “Pumpkin Patch Trolley” every October weekend, and theater and music abounds at Little Lake Theater, The Old Schoolhouse Players, and the Washington Symphony Orchestra.
You’ve heard it here before – if you can’t find something fun to do on any given weekend in Washington County, you aren’t looking, especially in the fall!
So get out there, all roads lead to great experiences in Washington County this fall.
J.R. Shaw is executive director of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency.