In the South, there’s no better way to get to know what makes a town tick than by visiting it’s annual fall festival. All across Georgia, communities celebrate the harvest, heavenly weather, and their heritage with themes that vary from scarecrows to seafood. So brace yourself for the bounce house, because no autumn will be complete without a trip to one of the following fall festivals.

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Close to Home:

Duluth Fall Festival
Duluth does fall festivals the same way Athens does football: big, loud, and with a life of its own. Started in the 1980s with the purpose of raising funds for the restoration of its historic downtown, the mission of the Duluth Fall Festival remains the same today. But with over 300 crafts and food vendors, nearly 400 volunteers, and events ranging from pageants to parades to a carnival and concerts, the Duluth Fall Festival has much to celebrate. The carnival runs for a week, from September 26-29th, but go on the weekend for the 5K, the parade, and the myriad of crafts booths and other vendors. Where else can you bank on watching local dignitaries proudly march in the same parade as clowns and beauty queens? It’s fun. It’s quirky. It’s the Duluth Fall Festival.

Duluth Fall Festival, September 28-29, 2013, 3142 Hill Street, Duluth, Ga 30096, Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m., Carnival closes at 10:00 p.m., Sunday 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., 5K begins at 8:00 a.m., Free admission

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Scarecrow Harvest
On Saturday, October 5, Alpharetta shuts down Milton Avenue in downtown Alpharetta to party with the scarecrows. For a week leading up to the street party, schools, businesses, and like-minded citizens challenge each others’ creativity as hundreds of scarecrows made out of a potpourri of materials crop up on the streets, in parked cars, and even scaling buildings. Join the Alpharettans as they culminate the scarecrow invasion with family fun, including inflatables, live music, face painting, crow-cornhole, hayrides, and a generally raucous good time. Stay for the “after party” when the Scarecrow Harvest street party turns into the Brew Moon Fest, replete with its very own Jimmy Buffett tribute band. Quirky, yet wonderful.

Scarecrow Harvest, Historic Downtown Alpharetta, (678) 297-6078, October 5, 2013 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., Free admission

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Sandy Springs Fall Festival
1000 years from now, cultural anthropologists will review evidence collected from the Sandy Springs Festival and determine that Sandy Springians were a tribe of people who 1) ate well (or at least, ate tasty), 2) enjoyed art of all sorts, including on the sidewalk, and 3) liked to dress in matching outfits to their pets’. Those of us in the present, however, know that the Festival is home to a catalogue of artisans and vendors, and is supported by a friendly municipality that’s happy for the littles to explore their emergency vehicles as they bounce between the inflatables, the face painting booth, the puppet shows, pony rides, and even the petting zoo. Yes, there’s sidewalk art! Yes, there’s a pet parade, complete with owner look-a-likes! And heck yes, there’s even a human sling shot!

Sandy Springs Fall Festival, 6075 Sandy Springs Circle, Sandy Springs, Ga, 30328, September 21, 2013, 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. and September 22, 2013, 11:00 a.m.- 5:00 p.m.  Adults over 18 $5 and Youth ages 6-17 $2, Children ages 5 and under are free

Worth the Drive:

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Harvest Balloon Festival
Why wouldn’t you expect Flowery Branch to lay claim to one of the best hot air balloon festivals in Northern Georgia? I mean, don’t we all immediately think “hot air balloons” when we think of Flowery Branch? No? Well, we will now. While balloon rides are offered only on Saturday afternoon (5:30 p.m. to dark, followed by the balloon glow event) and Sunday morning (7:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.) to satisfy necessary flight conditions, the giant hamsterball races, pumpkin carving, moonbounce, zany hair do’s booth, and entertainment occur all weekend long. Dying to float untethered above the mountains of North Georgia? Be sure to reserve one of the limited balloon rides in advance. All other rides are first come, first served on the tethered balloons.

Harvest Balloon Festival, October 19-20, 2013, 7005 Lake Sterling Boulevard, Flowery Branch, Ga 30542, (770) 965-3980, Untethered rides $250 per person, proceeds to benefit Challenged Child and Friends, Tethered floats $15 per person and parking is $5, proceeds to benefit Hall County Animal Shelter

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Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival
Located a half hour outside of Savannah, Richmond Hill is home to the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival, which packs the trinity into one solid family festival: good music, great (sea)food, and rides that will appeal to everyone. Though it attracts nearly 35,000 attendees over the weekend, the GOSF remains true to its small-town roots. Expect local vendors, fresh local seafood, and entertainment provided by local artists. They can’t help it if Gregg Allman just happens to be a local, and that Drivin’ and Cryin’ just happens to be opening for Collective Soul on Saturday night of this year’s festival. Make a weekend trip of it and line up a babysitter for Saturday night in advance. Family fun plus a date night? Now THAT’S a good fall festival.

Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival, 520 Cedar Street, Richmond Hill, Ga 31324, October 18th 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., October 19th 10:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., October 20th 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Adults 17 and older $5.00 (After 4:00 p.m. $15.00), Teens ages 13-16 $5.00, Children ages 4-12 $3.00 (After 4:00 p.m. $5.00), Children 3 and under free

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Georgia Peanut Festival
Nearly three hours away between Albany and Tifton is Sylvester, the Peanut Capital of the World. And, unless you happen to be heading to Appalachiacola by way of Tallahassee, you’ve probably never been. But guess what? For one day in October, Sylvester comes alive with a celebration of all things pea-nutty, emphasis on nutty. More than a day trip and likely not worth an overnight, we couldn’t in good conscience inform our readers of quirky fall festivals without at least mentioning the Peanut Festival. For those who brave the logistics of attending this festival with littles in tow, we’re sure you’ll be pleasantly rewarded with a parade, a pageant, and plenty of peanuts, not to mention maybe the coolest 5K t-shirt in the universe.

Georgia Peanut Festival, T.C. Jeffords Park in downtown Sylvester, October 19th, 2013, Free admission

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Hummingbird Festival
Located just under an hour south of Atlanta, Hogansville celebrates hummingbirds every October because of the little critter’s affinity for the “sweet life,” much like those who make Hogansville home. On the migration route, Hogansville attracts hummingbirds all summer long and the third weekend of October they also attract tourist to the the panoply of downtown stores, craft and food vendors, and rides. Have older kids in tow? Stay for the haunted house on Saturday night, if you dare.

Hummingbird Festival, Historic Hogansville, between Newnan and LaGrange of I-85, October 19-20th, 2013, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Free admission

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Deep Roots Festival
A barbeque cook-off, live music, a downtown promenade, and a kid zone: the only thing missing is an Elvis impersonator. Milledgeville, the Civil-war era capital of Georgia, throws open it’s streets in October to celebrate it’s storied history. Come for the fun and to check out the beautiful homes scattered throughout town, and leave with your belly full of festival food and fully sated kids.

Deep Roots Festival, Downtown Milledgeville, Georgia on Hancock Street, Wayne Street, Greene Street and Jefferson Street, October 19th, Starts at 10:00 a.m., Admission prices TBA (but in the past have been $5 per person with children 2 and under free), so check the website for updated information

What is your favorite fall festival? Tell us below!

–Shelley Massey

Photos courtesy of the author, Creative Commons via FlickrGeorgia Peanut Festival, Go Seafood Festival, Sandy Springs Festival, Duluth Fall Festival and Harvest Balloon Festival