Visiting Ohio's Amish Country in the Fall
by Ken McEntee
Doyle Yoder photo
As summer says its final farewells to Ohio’s Amish Country, fall steps in as an exciting time to take an adventure to Coshocton, Holmes, Stark, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties. Whether you and your family enjoy casual drives through spectacular rolling landscapes, like to immerse yourselves in history or are drawn to the local flavors of town festivals, the gorgeous region that includes America’s largest Amish community has plenty to keep you entertained through the dog days of summer and moving into the days of crisp autumn air.
Here are some of the many activities awaiting this year’s guests.
Autumn in Coshocton County might be described as stirring and a-maze-ing. Historic Roscoe Village’s annual Apple Butter Stirrin’ Festival is the county’s largest gathering of the year, as locals and tourists fill the village streets to celebrate one of the region’s fondest traditions.
The festival, which will take place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 19-21, features a large steaming kettle that simmers apple butter over an open fire while volunteers make sure the concoction is perpetually stirred. Supplementing the main attraction, the three days of family fun include “living history” guided tours of the restored 1830s canal town’s historic buildings, canal boat rides, street entertainment, shopping for unique gifts at Roscoe’s quaint shops and the diverse cuisine of village eateries and outdoor food vendors.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 10-11, McPeek’s Mighty Maze, located at the KOA Campground in Coshocton, invites you to Wine Your Way Out. The event, held at the popular corn maze, is a wine-tasting event that will feature the local wines of Raven’s Glenn Winery. Inside the maze, eight stations will feature eight different wines paired with cheese or chocolate to enjoy as you find your way out.
Or maybe you’ll want to stay in. The evening will include a campfire, a food truck and a cash bar.
The maze, said Mindy Brems, director of the Coshocton County Visitors Bureau, is bigger than ever. It’s been moved to a larger field and replaced with three acres of sunflowers. The regular corn maze will run from Friday, Sept. 14 to Sunday, Nov. 4.
“They’ll take you out on a wagon ride, and you can cut your own flower,” Brems said.
Don’t be a wallflower at the Fall Harvest Big Band Dance on Saturday, Oct. 6 at the Coshocton Lake Park Pavilion.
“There aren’t a lot of places left where you can dance to a live swing band on a wooden floor like they had back in the big-band era,” Brems said. “Our community big band does two dances every year.”
Bluegrass music fans may want to arrive a day early to enjoy Berlin’s free weekly Music on the Square concerts. The shows will begin at 7 p.m., weather permitting.
In October, Historic Downtown Millersburg will feature the historical and the macabre.
“Lots of weird things happen in many of our buildings,” said Judy Lamp, executive director of Historic Downtown Millersburg.
Those eerie happenings can be explored during the town’s annual Boo in the Burg historical building tours, which will be held on Saturday, Oct. 27 from 5-9 p.m.
Appropriately, for participants who may need help settling their nerves, Millersburg’s Ohio Wine Tasting event will be held concurrently with the tour.
“Guests are guided through some of our historic and fascinating buildings, like Eighteen 76, the Antique Emporium and the Old Jail,” Lamp said. “Guides provide interesting historical facts along with some of the weird stories associated with the buildings. Participants also get the opportunity to use ghost-busting tools, and they can get pretty spooked when they go off. Whether you’re into history or the spooky, this is a very fun and interesting event.”
Boo in the Berg tickets cost $5 per person and will be available downtown.
Ohio Wine Tasting, held on the courthouse lawn, will feature samples from 10 Ohio wineries. A cheese-tasting event to raise funds for OneEighty, a substance-abuse treatment center and domestic violence shelter, also will be held.
Millersburg’s Christmas Open House and Chocolate Walk will take place on Saturday, Nov. 17. During the day, parents can buy their children an empty candy box, which the kids can then take around to local shops to be filled with candy.
Meanwhile, tourists may want to visit the surrounding countryside to take in the gorgeous colors of autumn. National Geographic’s book, “Four Seasons of Travel,” ranks Holmes County as one of the world’s top 10 places to see autumn leaves.
“There’s really nothing like visiting Tuscarawas County, Ohio in the fall,” said Jesse Rothacher, communications manager for the Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “The air is sharp, the leaves are changing and there’s an event every weekend.”
Few events capture the region’s cultural heritage like Sugarcreek’s Ohio Swiss Festival. The 66th annual festival will be held Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28-29. Every fall since 1953, downtown Sugarcreek transforms into a lively Swiss village, celebrating the heritage of Switzerland with wine and cheese samplings, races, contests, parades, music and other events such as the traditional Steintossen, throwing of the stone, and the playing of the alphorns, the long wooden horns traditionally blown by mountain dwellers of the Alps.
The distinctive flavor of Swiss cheese, charming Alpine-influenced scenery and a melodic background of happy polka tunes have made Sugarcreek’s Ohio Swiss Festival a favorite tourist event. Many festivalgoers are likely to visit Sugarcreek’s most famous attraction — the World’s Largest Cuckoo Clock — at the intersection of East Main Street and Broadway Street. A train ride is a fun way to view the off-the-road beauty of nature and explore history as well. For the first time, the Dennison Railroad Depot will offer fall train trips on the weekends of Oct. 6-7 and 13-14. Riders can choose trips like the Storybook Express, Bing’s Magical Halloween Adventure, Chocolate and Cheese Sweetheart Ride, WWII Troop Train Ride or the Fall Foliage Trip.
Spending a day at Dreamville, as Dennison was nicknamed during World War II, is an opportunity to experience a simpler, happier time in our nation’s history. Recognized as a National Historic Landmark, The Dennison Railroad Depot is a remaining national example of a railroad canteen that still reflects its WWII heritage.
Wayne County, said Marty Starkey, executive director of the Wayne County Convention and Visitors Bureau, combines plenty of daytime activities throughout the autumn with the opportunity to unwind at the many downtown restaurants and pubs.
“We have a blend of small-town charm and increasing nightlife activities,” she said. “After spending the day in the country, visitors can come back to the excitement of newer upscale restaurants in Downtown Wooster and Orrville. More and more young people are starting to come here, which creates a more active and lively environment.”