As the days get shorter and the air turns crisp, it’s a special time of year, full of football, fall colors, hayrides, and of course fall festivals.

There are fall festivals happening somewhere in the Great Valley of East Tennessee almost every weekend in October, and folks around here know the hallmarks of a good one. The smell of apple butter cooking over an open fire. Chili cook-offs and pie-baking contests. Hot apple cider. Pumpkins and mums for sale. And of course, bluegrass and gospel music.

Here are just a few of the wonderful, homegrown events happening in our valley this October, all a short, scenic drive from one or two of our member wineries.

Union County Heritage Festival, Maynardville

Union County, the birthplace of Roy Acuff and Chet Atkins, is known as the Cradle of Country Music, and the county seat of Maynardville is host to the Union County Heritage Festival, held Oct. 1, at three locations in downtown Maynardville. Now in its 12th year, the festival is a celebration of the Appalachian way of life, featuring downhome country cooking, antique tractors and engines, arts and crafts.

That rich musical heritage is evident at the Heritage Festival as well. With live music going all day on two stages, chances are you’ll hear some music that will get your heartstrings tuned up.

But, the Heritage Festival doesn’t take itself too seriously. Fun events, like the Heritage Olympics, pit contestants against each other to test their down-on-the-farm skills, like the Feedbag Toss and the Skillet Throw. There’s even a Whittler’s Porch where folks can “loaf” like back in the old days.

If you visit the Heritage Festival, be sure to reserve time to and visit the Winery at Seven Springs Farm, just up the road on Hwy 61 E.

National Storytelling Festival, Jonesborough

Historic Jonesborough Tennessee, located about halfway between Goodwater Winery and Watauga Lake Winery, is world-renowned for the art of storytelling, and every October, master storytellers from across the nation come together to spin a yarn or tell a tall tale at the National Storytelling Festival. This year’s festival is set for October 7-9.

The National Storytelling Festival has a rich history stretching back more than 40 years, preserving the rich storytelling folk tradition. You can sit back and enjoy engaging tales by storytelling greats like Barbara McBride-Smith and Bill Lepp, or even take the stage yourself at the festival’s Swappin’ Ground.

Washington Presbyterian Church Apple Festival, Corryton

This tiny-but-mighty church nestled at the foot of House Mountain has been hosting the Apple Festival for 39 years to support the church’s chosen ministries. In that time, the festival has grown into one of the largest fall festivals in Knox County. Hallmarks of the Washington Presbyterian Apple Festival include fresh-pressed apple cider, apple butter cooked over an open fire, fried apple pies. If it’s made from an apple, they’ve got it, and it’s delicious.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Live bluegrass music, crafts and baked goods for sale, and fall-off-the-bone barbecue for lunch also make this festival a must-visit for everyone.

The festival will take place Saturday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., on the church grounds, 7405 Washington Pike, Corryton. After you take in the festival, take Washington Pike to Highway 61, then follow the highway to Blaine. From there, it’s just a short jaunt to Spout Spring Estates Vineyard and Winery.

Wears Valley Fall Fest, Sevierville

Sevierville folks are gearing up for what locals call “leaf season,” that time when the fall colors touch the Great Smoky Mountains and tourists flock to see the hills come alive with color. In the heart of leaf country sits Wears Valley, a community situated halfway between Pigeon Forge and Townsend, blessed with natural beauty in abundance.

Keep Sevier Beautiful chose well for this site to host the group’s largest fundraiser of the year, Wears Valley Fall Fest, set for October 14-16.

While this event has all the fun of a good fall festival, including great food, crafts, music and Appalachian demonstrations, it also boasts an environmental message. Crafters teach how to make useful, repurposed items. Local groups will teach about sustainable gardening. Even entertainers will use those Appalachian traditional repurposed music-makers, the spoons and the washboard.  Located conveniently to Eagle Spring Winery, this festival would make a great daytrip or side trip addition to your vacation.

Great Valley Wine Trail Wineries will be participating in two October Festivals.  On Oct 8, The Winery at Seven Springs Farm and Goodwater Winery will be partnering with the Cumberland Gap Artists’ Co-op for a wonderful spread of hors d’oeuvres, an evening of musical entertainment and art galore by Appalachian artists of TN, KY, & VA.  Over 20 award winning wines will be available for tasting and purchase along with art on display, and a silent auction of artistic items. This event is a fundraiser for all Cumberland Gap Artists Co-op art programs, including After School Art and Art for Home Schooled Children.

On Saturday Oct 29, The Winery at Seven Springs FarmGoodwater Winery and Eagle Springs Winery will be partnering with Saint Mary’s Catholic Church for a great day of family fun, fellowship and Wine Tasting.

Enjoy October in the Great Valley of East Tennessee.