It was difficult last night to drive a distance across the Wisconsin countryside and not see combines trailed by large clouds of dust. These combines eagerly chewed through fields of soybeans and corn, pushing up great amounts of harvest dust onto the semi’s that trailed closely behind, waiting to take the crop to the granary, or to the empty train cars waiting to bring that yield to the river, where it might be barged down the Mississippi before boarding a cargo ship bound for the Far East. Either way, it’s harvest time in the Midwest, and while I am not a farmer by any serious definition of the word, I do find my appreciation for the beauty of a farmer’s field to be on the rise.
It is indeed harvest time, and when driving anywhere around Lake Geneva a few minutes spent behind a slow moving tractor should be expected. Harvest time is pure, it’s decent, and it’s worth celebrating. Oktoberfest happens this weekend at Lake Geneva, and I suppose this now becomes the weekend when we must turn our attention towards fall and celebrate it. I write that, and I mean it, but the 70 forecast for Saturday does not make me feel harvesty. In order to truly feel the harvest, I have to be chilled. It is fall now, sure, but colors are barely at 20% of peak, and the temperatures feel much more like a perfect September than a cool October. I’m supposed to go to the Orchard this weekend for the first time all year, but I’d rather be cold when being towed by a tractor on a straw filled trailer. In other words, it’s time to celebrate the harvest at the lake even though I don’t quite feel like it yet.
Oktoberfest in Lake Geneva happens Saturday and Sunday, October 12th and 13th. It is an event, with plenty of things to do and see, but let’s be careful to not oversell things. Oktoberfest in this context is a party, sure, but it’s really more like one of those parties that you need to go to, because if you missed it you’d feel bad, but you don’t exactly need to spend the whole night there. If I had to schedule your weekend for you, which I’m more than happy to do, it would look something like this:
Assuming you don’t need to buy a Lake Geneva vacation home this weekend, you should probably make your way to the Royal Oak Farm Orchard just south of Walworth on Saturday morning. By going in the morning you accomplish two things. First, you beat most of the crowds that wake up in the city and head up to the orchard only after waiting in line for breakfast for an hour, perhaps two. Second, you get to the orchard before the temperature rises. I hate walking around orchards while sweating, so arrive in the morning and you can not only be assured that the apple cider donuts will be fresh and that the goats and various other wildlife will be hungry, but you won’t have to sweat while doing so.
After the orchard, go ahead and hit up Lake Geneva’s Oktoberfest. Sprecher’s is a chain restaurants of sorts, but they do specialize in all things German and Oktobery, so maybe stop there for lunch. They have some sort of special thing going on due to the “holiday”, so stop there and eat. Then, without getting back into your car, walk into town. As I recall from years’ past, Broad Street just North of Main Street will be closed to traffic, and there should be some straw on the ground or something to make you feel outdoorsy and fallish. There will be pony rides, bouncy houses, and things that kids generally like. Walk around, maybe munch on a brat while walking, and then hit up a store or two to see what delights they have on sale.
Once you’re done with that, it’ll probably be mid afternoon. Time to go to Pearce’s Corn Stand. In case you haven’t been up lately, Pearce’s is no longer just a sleepy little farm stand on the corner of County O and Highway 67. Pearce has built two new barns, which detract from the romance of the prior set up, but are okay by me. They have pumpkins and caramel apples and all sorts of things along those lines. They also have some house of horrors, but as I eschew all things Halloween, I’d ignore that new part of the operation and instead focus on something truly worth celebrating: The Harvest.
By the time you’ve bought a few pumpkins and a couple bundles of corn stalks to place on your front stoop, you’ll probably be so over Oktoberfest that you’ll just wish it to be November. You could make this an Oktoberfest type of weekend, or you could celebrate the weekend in the way that I’d rather celebrate it. I’d push the boat away from the pier and go for a slow cruise. Colors are changing, if slowly, and the lake will be empty. If a boat isn’t available, I’d walk the path, kicking leaves along the way.