The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting crisper, the leaves are getting brighter, and a young boy’s thoughts turn to ... bugs? At least that is how it has always gone in my family. Because fall in Happy Valley brings what was always my kids’ favorite festival of the year: The Great Insect Fair!
The Great Insect Fair is put on by the Penn State entomology department. For an event that celebrates some of Earth’s smallest creatures, this is a huge extravaganza, and it is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.
Since my family started attending, the fair has outgrown its original home in the Mitchell Building, moved to the Ag Arena, and has finally hit the big time — the Bryce Jordan Center.
Highlights include the insect petting zoo, where kids are invited to hold and touch insects such as walking sticks and hissing cockroaches; a talking BugMobile; face painting; bee hives; arts and crafts; and the always popular Insect Deli, where brave visitors can sample chocolate-covered crickets or mealworm roll-ups.
This year’s fair will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 5. Plan on spending several hours there. Admission is free, but donations are accepted. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Fall brings another unusual festival to the area: the Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival at Bald Eagle State Park. This fundraiser for the Howard Fire Company features giant trebuchets flinging pumpkins up to 900 feet onto floating targets on the park lake. Kids can try their hand at hurling pumpkins using smaller, kid-sized catapults, as well.
The third annual Punkin’ Chunkin’ Festival will take place Oct. 19 this year. Besides flying pumpkins, the event includes hayrides, pie-eating contests, bands, square dancing, crafts and food. Admission is free.
If you are looking for more traditional fall fun, some local farms host fall festivals on weekends in October. In Port Matilda, Way Fruit Farm hosts its annual Fall Festival on Oct. 12 and 19, including wagon rides, apple slingshots, pick-your-own apples (limited this year due to frost), a bunny barn, free samples of apple cider, and more. Proceeds benefit the Rose of Sharon Orphanage in the Dominican Republic.
Way Fruit Farm also hosts a Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 26, featuring wagon rides to the pumpkin patch, a make-your-own caramel apple station, and a children’s story time.
These events are held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit wayfruitfarm.com for more information.
Wasson Farm Market on Shingletown Road also hosts a weekend fall festival Oct. 12 and 13. The weekend features a corn maze, which is great for younger children, hay rides to the pumpkin patch, and lots of delicious homemade soup. If you can’t make the festival, the corn maze is also open any day the market is open during the fall season.
You can find more information about on the Wasson Farm Facebook page, or by calling 237-2339.