October brings the first chill to the air in South Carolina, making it a perfect time to get outside and enjoy festivals and events. Here's a sampling of what the harvest season brings to SC:
What says fall better than hay rides, scarecrow building and pumpkin panting? You'll find all that-along with entertainment, sweetgrass basket makers and gourmet food sampling-at Brookgreen Gardens' annual Harvest Home Weekend Festival. The butterfly house in the renowned sculpture gardens will be open all day with new butterflies just for the fall season.
Historic floods forced the cancellation of the Congaree Bluegrass Festival in 2015. This year, organizers promise to make up for the missed time. It's been moved to a new venue-the historic Columbia Speedway in Cayce-with top bluegrass artists (Grammy-winner Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver will headline Oct. 1), a jam tent, dancing and kids activities. The festival's second day is dedicated to Gospel bluegrass.
Polka music will fill the air as Newberry celebrates its German heritage Oct. 1. Oktoberfest brings authentic cuisine, dancing and a biergarten to historic downtown Newberry. There's a contest for the best men's and women's German costumes. Admission to the festival-and to the kids activities in Kindertown-is free.
Magnificent hot-air balloons will rise into the Upstate skies at Balloons Over Anderson Oct. 7-9. You'll have the opportunity to book a balloon flight, take a tethered balloon ride or fly above in a helicopter. Of course, if you're not feeling brave enough for a ride, bring a blanket and watch the colorful balloons as they float above the brilliant fall colors. There also will be carnival rides, food vendors and entertainment on the ground.
For 12 days each October, Columbia is home to blue-ribbon pies and funnel cakes, prize cows and thrill rides. The South Carolina State Fair features exhibits, competitions, food, rides and musical entertainment. More than 400,000 people a year stream through the gates of the fairgrounds, ready to get their annual taste of fried just-about-anything (Oreos!). Don't miss the pig races-a crowd favorite each year.
Not too many towns can say one of their own performed at the White House for eight presidents. But Cheraw can. Jazz king Dizzy Gillespie, known for his bulging cheeks and his bent trumpet, is the inspiration for the South Carolina Jazz Festival Oct. 14-16. More than 20 regional musical artists will perform in venues around town. While you're there, make time to check out the 7-foot statue erected in Cheraw's Town Green in 2002 on the 85th anniversary of Gillespie's birth.
South Carolina's third-oldest city celebrates is maritime heritage at the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show Oct. 15-16. More than 140 wooden boats-everything from rowboats to sailboats to old classics-will be displayed on downtown's Front Street and in the water. The highlight is a wooden boat challenge, where teams race to build a rowing skiff in four hours. The boats will then compete in a rowing relay across the Sampit River. It's a fun weekend for seafarers and landlubbers.
If you love chicken bog-or if you've never tried it-you'll want to head to the tiny Horry County town of Loris on Oct. 15 for the annual Bog Off. There's entertainment, vendors, crafts and a fireworks show. But the star of the show is the bog-a concoction of rice, chicken, sausage and spices. There's a cooking contest for the top bog chefs, and the Jamestown Chefs are there each year, selling the South Carolina specialty by the plate (or two).
Get primed for Halloween at the Jack-o-Lantern Jubilee in downtown North Augusta. There's a costume contest, face painting, clowns and kiddie rides for the youngsters, and live entertainment on two stages, a car show and great food for all ages. The event runs Friday and Saturday, with the Gin Blossoms headlining the free Saturday night concert.