The familiar leanings of the fall season can take many forms, from pumpkin picking and chili cooking to spooks and scarecrows – and perhaps even a bit of pining for summer. It's been known to happen!
So, like a pile of leaves swirling in the wind, here's a flurry of things to do that could quite possibly make this the very best autumn ever.
At least, you'll have fun falling all over yourself. Just don't step on the rake.
There’s no shortage of local pumpkin patches from which to select the proper orange mascot, and the competition can be lively. How about pig races every two hours starting at 11 a.m. on weekends? That's only one of the additional attractions at Johnson Farms Plants & Pumpkins in Belton, where visitors can lose themselves in a 20-acre corn maze, watch a "pumpkin popper" shoot its organic ammo across a lake and sample pumpkin doughnuts and apple-cider slushes. Kids can also bounce on jumping pillows, explore a tire jungle and moo-cluck-oink with new pals at the animal corral.
Sept. 23-Oct. 31, noon-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Saturday-Sunday; 17701 Holmes Road, Belton, Mo.; admission: $7-$13.
A fall tradition since 1977, the KC Ren Fest offers new ancient stuff every year to go with its 16th-century English shire theme. Maybe the most noteworthy addition this season is the Plague Escape. You know what they say about tragedy plus time equaling comedy? Well, maybe dark comedy in this case, as potential victims pay ten bucks each to enter a "one-of-a-kind" room, where they have just 20 minutes to discover the elusive cure to the dreadful contagion that killed millions of helpless people once upon a time in Europe. Welcome to the past!
Weekends through Oct. 15 plus Columbus Day; 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; 628 N. 126th St., Bonner Springs, Kan.; tickets: $12.95-$21.95, ages 4 and younger free.
Crows will be sure to keep away from the City of Shawnee's annual celebration of the scarecrow. But families will flock to this event at which they will be given supplies to build their own faux farmers, as well as materials to decorate provided pumpkins. Downtown Shawnee merchants will also participate in a scarecrow-making contest that promises to turn Johnson Drive into Straw Man Street. The hay, you say! Stick around until the end to purchase sure-to-be delicious desserts from baking contest competitors.
Oct. 7, 9 a.m.-noon; Shawnee City Hall, 11110 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, Kan.; admission: free.
4. WaterFire KC
Moving musicians, dexterous dancers and other talented entertainers will share of themselves as floating bonfires lick the skies from nearby Brush Creek, evoking a dramatic relationship between human creativity and the natural world. WaterFire KC is a yearly nocturnal happening involving primal elements that wouldn't seem out of place in a fever dream. Who knows what it really means, but fall does it again!
Oct. 7, 7-11 p.m.; Brush Creek on the Country Club Plaza, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free.
Alt-folk, Americana, bluegrass, blues, classic country, contemporary country, jazz, pop, r&b and soul will fill six hours of "acoustic or near-acoustic" front-porch music performed by dozens of bands and solo artists at Porchfest. Several midtown KC neighborhoods will be involved and festivalgoers are invited to meander from porch to porch to partake of the pleasantly diverse sounds. Musicians are playing for tips, so feel free to not listen for free. Sorry, no coolers, but that's why food trucks have been invited.
Oct. 14, noon-6 p.m.; Valentine, Volker and Roanoke neighborhoods, Kansas City, Mo.; admission: free (tips encouraged for porch musicians).
Want to eat something that'll stick to your ribs? Maybe ignite your mouth? About 200 competing cooking teams will do their best to fulfill expectations at the Lenexa Chili Challenge. Categories include chili (natch), hot wings and salsa. Regardless of who winds up as the grand champion, you can win, too, thanks to free samples while they last on Saturday. Civilians who yearn for an actual prize might want to enter the Hot Pepper Eating Contest, unless they're fortunate enough to find someone to talk them out of it.
Oct. 20, 6-10 p.m.; Oct. 21, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.; Old Town Lenexa, Sante Fe Trail Drive and Pflumm Road, Lenexa, Kan.; admission: free.
Halloween seems to have lost much of its capacity to truly frighten over the years, and that's fine with the friendly folks at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead. If all goes to plan, kiddies may feel ever so slightly spooked but never really scared at Deanna Rose's "Night of the Living Farm," although the name is indeed a takeoff on the title of the undeniably disturbing 1968 zombie movie, "Night of the Living Dead." But that's for parents to know and for children to not find out at this event, where the "mad science experiments" are undoubtedly far from insane and the "fortune teller" will be hard-pressed to predict an ill future. But what if some big goof in a Frankenstein mask jumped out of the bushes and chased after everyone during the "flashlight scavenger hunt"? Of course, I can't imagine who would do such a thing. I'm shocked that you even brought it up!
Oct. 21-22 and 27-28, 6-9 p.m.; Deanna Rose Children’s Farmstead, 13800 Switzer Road, Overland Park, Kan.; admission: $10, ages 2 and younger free.
Dogs don't know it's fall. Or that they're even dogs. Still, how can they not know that their the stars of Dogtober Fest? It offers more pooch-happy contests, games, demonstrations and workshops than you can shake a big box of dog biscuits at. By they way, never shake even a tiny box of dog biscuits while at Dogtober Fest, unless you want to start a canine stamped. Yeah, like we're in charge.
Oct. 22, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.; Kemper Outdoor Education Center at Fleming Park, 8201 S. Jasper Bell Road, Blue Springs, Mo.; admission: free (dog food donations accepted for area animal shelters).
Sure, it’s fall, but summer suitably never ends for this touring version of the Beach Boys, fronted by co-founding member Mike Love, whose lead vocals still propel such iconic hits as “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Little Deuce Coupe,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Sloop John B." Also on board will be Bruce Johnston, a frequent contributor to the group's sunny sound since the 1960s. As the Beach Boys like to suggest in song, let’s “Do It Again”!
Oct. 22, 7 p.m.; Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland, 1228 Main St., Kansas City, Mo.; tickets: $49.50-$125.
Brian McTavish is a regular arts and culture contributor for KCUR 89.3. You can reach him at email@example.com.