Top Midwest Events in September and October | Midwest Living

Top Midwest Events in September and October

Check out apple and pumpkin festivals, craft beer celebrations, one of the world's largest public art events or another of our other top events for September and October 2018.


Rock Island Grand Prix ROCK ISLAND September 1–2 In past years, drivers from 35 states, plus Europe, South America and Asia, have faced off in the world’s largest karting street race. When downtown reopens in the evening, spectators enjoy outdoor concerts and food from local vendors.

Alton Jazz and Wine Festival ALTON September 8 The Terell Stafford Quintet and Miss Jubilee and the Humdingers are among the headliners at this outdoor concert celebrating native Miles Davis at Liberty Bank Alton Amphitheater. The music is free, and wine samples from nearby vineyards come cheap.

Historic Walking Tours RIVERSIDE October 28 During this two-hour guided tour, docents from The Frederick Law Olmsted Society take visitors past buildings designed by Illinois greats, such as William Le Baron Jenney, William Eugene Drummond and Frank Lloyd Wright. Outdoor spots include Swan Pond and Historic Scottswood Common.


Evansville Philharmonic Orchestra LINCOLN CITY September 1 At Lincoln State Park, one of the region’s largest orchestras pays homage to Indiana music legends. Expect classical renditions of tunes by Michael Jackson, Cole Porter, John Mellencamp and more.

Nappanee Apple Festival NAPPANEE September 13–16 If hot apple fritters, turnovers, dumplings and cider aren’t enough for you, snag a slice of the state’s largest pastry—a 7-foot-wide apple pie. A parade, carnival and bake-off round out the festival.

Indianapolis Colts: The Exhibit

Indianapolis Colts: The Exhibit. Photo: Courtesy of the Indiana Historical Society

Indianapolis Colts: The Exhibit INDIANAPOLIS through September 14, 2019 Football fans score an up-close look at artifacts, rare photos and player interviews at the Indiana Historical Society. A digital game allows visitors to run the field and juke tackles as Blue, the Colts mascot.


Route 24 For the Love of Junk NEW HAMPTON September 7–8 Bargain hunters won’t find much “junk” on this upscale sidewalk sale along Main Street. Instead, browse refurbished home decor and new artwork while enjoying live music and nibbling food from local businesses.

Brew Ha Ha DAVENPORT September 15 What’s better than enjoying samples of more than 150 craft beers from local and regional breweries, live music, and food-truck grub? Show up for happy hour laughs at LeClaire Park when an improv comedy performer joins the crowd.

Witching Hour IOWA CITY October 12–13 Don’t let the name mislead you—this festival bewitches only by casting a spotlight on rising and established artists. Panel discussions explore the creative process and what it means to be human. Lineups have featured stand-up comedians, scientists, musicians, writers, composers, filmmakers and performing artists.


39th American Royal World Series of Barbecue KANSAS CITY September 13–16 At the Kansas Speedway, teams from more than 10 countries vie for the title of Grand Champion in this massive open and invitational world barbecue contest. Events include live music, a Taste of KC sampling area and food trucks, plus a Saturday Cowtown Family Fun Fest and car show.

Columbus Day Festival Hot Air Balloon Regatta

Columbus Day Festival Hot Air Balloon Regatta. Photo: Jimmy Harmon Photography

Columbus Day Festival Hot Air Balloon Regatta COLUMBUS, Kansas October 5–7 Nearly two dozen balloons illuminate the night sky during Friday’s evening glow. On Saturday and Sunday, balloons compete in races above Industrial Park. Between events, visitors take in a parade, crafts fair, and car and quilt shows.

Oakley Corn Festival OAKLEY October 12–13 It’s all corn and games at this fall-theme event featuring a corny cook-off, cob throwing and the Kansas State Cornhusking Contest. Up to your ears? Take a break inside the Buffalo Bill Cultural Center, where kids can compete in a pumpkin-decorating contest.


ArtPrize 10 GRAND RAPIDS September 19–October 7 At one of the world’s largest public art events, you’re the judge. More than 2,000 artists working in all mediums show their works throughout downtown Grand Rapids. At least $500,000 in prizes are awarded, including two $200,000 prizes for the winners of the public and juried votes.

Macktoberfest MACKINAC ISLAND October 6 Hop on the ferry to see Mackinac Island in fall when the Island House Hotel kicks off its inaugural German heritage celebration with craft beer, a chicken dinner and Aaron Dussing, a pro yodeler who sings in seven languages. Lederhosen and dirndls are strongly encouraged.

Boyne Appétit! Fall Restaurant Week BOYNE CITY area October 15–21 Sample some of northern Michigan’s best-known eats. (Yes, there will be whitefish, walleye and cherries.) Barrel Back Restaurant and Boyne City Bakery are among nearly two dozen businesses offering special menus (and prices).


14th Annual Chainsaw Event HACKENSACK September 21–23 The sound of chain saws echoes through Hackensack as expert carvers turn hefty logs into intricate works of art. Spectators can bid each day on the finished sculptures.

Sandhill Crane Tours ZIMMERMAN October 18, 20, 24, 27 By mid-fall, thousands of cranes roost on wetlands at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. Make a reservation to learn birding tips from rangers and access viewing areas where experts share info and answer questions.

Straight No Chaser PRIOR LAKE October 26 This YouTube-turned-world-famous group belts out clever a capella twists on both classic and contemporary hits. Join the troupe of nine male singers for their One Shot Tour at the Mystic Showroom.


Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band ST. LOUIS September 7 The still-rocking former Beatle brings his star-studded group to The Fabulous Fox Theatre. This year’s lineup includes Colin Hay, Steve Lukather, Gregg Rolie, Graham Gouldman, Warren Ham and Gregg Bissonette.

Paddle MO

Paddle MO. Photo: Courtesy of Paddle MO

Paddle MO HERMANN, Missouri September 19–23 Experience beauty and wildlife along the Missouri River on a five-day, 100-mile float trip. The journey starts in Hermann and ends at the confluence with the Mississippi.

Salt River Quilt Show FLORIDA October 6–7 Check out two galleries of quilts on display inside the newly renovated Mark Twain Memorial Shrine. Seasoned quilters compete in a juried contest while beginners attend free demos from fabric vendors. One mile away, a crafts show will set up at Buzzard’s Roost Picnic Area.


Nebraska State Fair GRAND ISLAND August 24–September 3 Old fair favorites (think carnival rides, 4-H competitions and food-on-a-stick) meet new attractions, including Sea Lion Splash and a trailer-size aquarium, Live Shark Encounter. This year, snag tickets to see Sugarland and Kelly Clarkson perform on the main stage.

Crete’s Great Pumpkin Festival CRETE October 5–7 Nearby farmers and community members donate about a thousand locally grown gourds for the Pumpkin Blitz that kicks off the festival. Weekend events include haunted houses, a pie-eating contest and scarecrow-building competition, plus a carnival, petting zoo and more.

Fall Chrysanthemum Show OMAHA October 6–November 16 Autumn’s beauty is in full bloom when hundreds of colorful mums burst to life at the Lauritzen Gardens. Horticulturists pair the flowers with bright fabrics, lush textiles and other exotic design elements to honor the chrysanthemums’ significance in Japanese heritage and culture.

North Dakota

Pride of Dakota Dickinson Harvest Showcase DICKINSON September 15–16 Browse handmade items crafted by North Dakota vendors, including gourmet snacks, wine, books, jewelry, pet treats and home decor. All proceeds benefit small businesses throughout the region.

Norsk Høstfest MINOT September 26–29 At North America’s largest Scandinavian festival, explore a replica Viking village, try your hand at archery and watch the annual lefse-making masters competition. In the evening, Nordic chefs whip up six-course dinners featuring traditional Norwegian delicacies.

An Evening with Bill Engvall GRAND FORKS October 6 Looking for an exciting evening of comedy? Here’s your event. The Grammy-nominated, multiplatinum-selling comedian performs for one night at the Alerus Center. Look forward to new material and hit routines from his Billboard chart-topping albums.


Celebrating Libbey Glass, 1818-2018 TOLEDO through November 25 Ohio has a rich history in glass manufacturing, including the world-renowned Libbey Glass Company. See more than 180 objects from the Toledo Museum of Art and private collections, including brilliant cut glass and pressed tableware.

Ohio Renaissance Festival WAYNESVILLE September 1–October 28 Press pause on modern life by stepping into the 35-acre replica of a 16th-century English village inside Renaissance Park. The fair offers nearly 100 shows daily, including jousts, sword fights and aerial arts. In addition to gyros from the Aleing Knight Pub, sample turkey legs, bread bowls, pickles and more from various vendors.

Bicentennial Celebration LEWISBURG September 7–9 The small town is celebrating a big anniversary with a parade, historical reenactments, a comedy performance by Heywood Banks, a Daniel Boone impersonator and more. Don’t miss the opening of a time capsule from 1993.

South Dakota

South Dakota Film Festival ABERDEEN September 20–23 Downtown’s Capitol Theatre shows nearly a dozen exclusive screenings of films produced by artists from around the world. Jurors give special preference to movies that highlight life in the Great Plains.

Wheelin’ to Wall WALL September 22 Cyclists choose between 10-, 20-, 40- and 100-mile routes through Badlands National Park. During the ride, catch views of the park’s striking geologic deposits and watch for the region’s signature wildlife, including bison, bighorn sheep and prairie dogs.

Black Hills Powwow RAPID CITY October 5–7 Join hundreds of dancers, singers and drummers in performances that honor Native American culture. In addition to the powwow, visitors can browse a fine arts show or compete in friendly tournaments of hand games, archery and more.


Wisconsin Highland Games WAUKESHA August 31–September 2 During this Celtic celebration, see former professional strongmen move a 185-pound caber, watch cute collies show off their herding skills and enjoy live performances by Irish step dancers. Nearby restaurants serve Scottish treats, including haggis and sausage sandwiches.

International Fall Festival EAU CLAIRE September 29 This lively college town’s largest festival celebrates its 30th anniversary with food, vendors and entertainment from ethnic groups that make up Wisconsin. Be sure to grab a spot to watch the Parade of Nations in the afternoon.

Wisconsin Book Festival MADISON October 11–14 Looking for a good book for those chilly autumn nights? Some 15,000 literature fans and 70 authors—including Pulitzer Prize winners and New York Times best sellers—convene at the Madison Central Library for presentations and book signings. Come and discover fresh reads.

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