A sure sign that summer is winding down is the return of football and fall festivals.
Both enable folks to get outside and enjoy the cooler weather (or this year, the continued cool weather). But while attending professional or college football requires the investment of hundreds of dollars, festival fans can enjoy themselves for a fraction of that — frequently for free.
The festival season kicks off in earnest this weekend with three big ones: the Irish Fest, Santa-Cali-Gon Days and the Renaissance Festival. Thereafter, every weekend through mid-October will provide a selection of celebrations, ranging from traditional town fairs such as the Liberty (Sept. 22-24) and Overland Park (Sept. 23) fall festivals to cultural bashes such as the Greek Festival (Sept. 8-10, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church) and Fiesta Hispana (Sept. 15-17, Barney Allis Plaza).
Plus, there will be plenty of food- and drink-oriented celebrations, including Beerfest (Sept. 9, Power & Light District), Village West WineFest (Sept. 16, Schlitterbahn) and Ciderfest (Sept. 23-24 and Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Louisburg Cider Mill).
Kansas City Irish Fest
5-11 p.m. Sept. 1, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Sept. 2-3 at Crown Center
If you’re Irish, this is an event you can’t miss. And if you’re not, there are still plenty of reasons to attend, starting with 10 stages for entertainment and enlightenment, including music by 30 bands (highlighted by the Elders, the High Kings and We Banjo 3). Among the other draws will be Art in the Park, a film festival, comedy shows, heritage workshops and displays and a huge children’s area, not to mention dozens of vendors. Tickets are $7-$12 through kcirishfest.com (general admission for Saturday and Sunday will be $18 starting Friday).
Noon-11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 1; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Sept. 2-3; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday, Sept. 4; at Independence Square
The early pioneers making their way west on the Santa Fe, California and Oregon trails couldn’t have imagined this kind of celebration. More than 300,000 visitors are expected to check out the 400 vendor booths featuring arts and crafts, food and commercial goods, as well as a carnival and two stages with live entertainment. The showcase musical event will be a concert by Blackberry Smoke at 9:30 p.m. Saturday. Carnival runs Thursday-Monday. santacaligon.com. Free (except for carnival).
Kansas City Renaissance Festival
Opens 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 2, at Bonner Springs
Ah, those were the good old days, before antibiotics, electricity and indoor plumbing. The festival grounds will be populated by folks dressed like their medieval ancestors, with stage acts, street acts, music, games, rides, jousting and more. New this year will be the Dragon Encampment and the Throne of Swords Tavern. Runs weekends through Oct. 15, plus Labor Day and Columbus Day. 913-721-2110. Tickets are $10.50-$12.95 through kcrenfest.com ($12.95-$21.95 at gate; two-day pass $40; season pass $55-$89.95; daily special events $10-$74.95)
Johnson County Old Settlers
Noon-10 p.m. Sept. 7, 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Sept. 8, 9 a.m.-11 p.m. Sept. 9 in downtown Olathe
With a carnival, arts and crafts, ice cream social and live music, Old Settlers has all the ingredients of a traditional fall festival. But what sets it apart are a parade (10 a.m. Sept. 9) billed as the largest in Kansas and an event called Gabfest (noon Sept. 9), where folks gather to tell tall tales. Other highlights are a flower show (1 p.m. Sept. 8) and an antique car show (9 a.m. Sept. 9). johnsoncountyoldsettlers.com. Free (except for carnival).
5-11 p.m. Sept. 15, noon-11 p.m. Sept. 16, noon-10 p.m. Sept. 17 at Barney Allis Plaza
Attracting more than 40,000 visitors to downtown each year, Fiesta Hispana celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month with more than 75 vendor booths, food, music, folkloric entertainment and children’s activities. Musical entertainment will include AJ Castillo, Los Cadetes de Linares and Banda Machos. A historical exhibit will highlight local Hispanic settlers. kcfiestahispana.com. Free.
Liberty Fall Festival
11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sept. 22, 9 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Sept. 23, noon-4 p.m. Sept. 24 at Liberty Square
The historic setting of the streets around the Clay County Courthouse will make this fall festival worth checking out. In addition to visiting the shops on the square, visitors will find quality arts and crafts at about 175 booths. A carnival will run all three days, and there will be a parade at 11 a.m. Sept. 23 and live music on the evenings of Sept. 22 and 23. Only carnival and adjacent areas will be open Sept. 24. 816-781-5200. libertyfallfest.com. Free (except for carnival).
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 14-15 at Shawnee Indian Mission, Fairway
The Haskell Native American Dancers and musicians from the Folk Alliance International will provide the entertainment, and this event will feature an educational component through historical presentations. The mission’s 12 acres and three historic buildings, which served as a school for children from Shawnee, Delaware and other Indian nations during 1839-62, will also be the site of Drum Safari for the kids, games and vendors. Free concert at 6 p.m. Oct. 13. 913-262-0867. fairwaykansas.org. $2 suggested donation.
Runs Nov. 24-Dec. 30 at Worlds of Fun
Given how mild our winters have been in recent years (thanks, climate change), chances are good visitors will have comfortable weather for most of this first-year festival. Select rides will operate, including Cyclone Sam’s and the Worlds of Fun Railroad, but most of the fun will be holiday-related. Among the attractions will be a 70-foot tree on the new International Plaza, live holiday music, ice skating, costumed characters and shopping, with Artisan Alley featuring handmade gifts. Open Friday-Sunday through Dec. 17, then daily through Dec. 30 (except Dec. 24-25); 5-10 p.m. all days except 5-11 p.m. Saturday. 816-454-4545. worldsoffun.com. Ticket prices TBA.
De Soto Days Festival, Aug. 31-Sept. 3, De Soto. desotodays.com
KC Dancefest, Aug. 31-Sept. 3, KCI Expo Center. kcdancefest.org
Mariachi & Folkloric Festival, Sept. 2, Kansas National Guard Armory. downtownkck.org/event/2017-mariachi-folkloric-festival
PNC KidFest, Sept. 2, Union Station. unionstation.org/sciencecity/kidfest
Belton Fall Festival, Sept. 8-9, Main Street, Belton. mainstreetbelton.org
Grain Valley Fair, Sept. 8-9, Grain Valley Community Center. grainvalleyfair.com
Greek Festival, Sept. 8-10, Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church. annunciationkc.org
Kansas State Fair, Sept. 8-17, Hutchinson. kansasstatefair.com
Beerfest, Sept. 9, Power & Light District. kcbeerfest.com
Fiesta on the Square, Sept. 9, Linden Square. gladstone.mo.us
Independence Uncorked Wine Festival, Sept. 9, Bingham-Waggoner Estate. independenceuncorked.com
Kansas City Chalk & Walk Festival, Sept. 9-10, Crown Center Square. kcchalkandwalk.org
Swift Mile street festival, Sept. 8-9, North Kansas City. theswiftmile.com
Kansas City Cigar Festival, Sept. 9, Diebel’s roof. kccigarfestival.com
Lenexa Spinach Festival, Sept. 9, Sar-Ko-Par Trails Park. lenexa.com
Lost Arts Fair, Sept. 9, Harris-Kearney House. westporthistorical.com
Midwest Tea Festival, Sept. 9-10, Ararat Shrine Temple Auditorium. midwestteafest.com
Missouri Baptist Children’s Home Apple Festival, Sept. 9, First Baptist Church, Raymore. mbch.org
Sprint Family Fun Days, Sept. 9, Power & Light District. powerandlightdistrict.com/familyfun
Summer Fest, Sept. 9, Grinter Place. kshs.org/event/kansas-city-grinter-place-summer-fest/19905
Jewish Culture Fest, Sept. 10, Jewish Community Center. jewishculturefest.com
Jesse James Festival, Sept. 8-9 and 14-17, Kearney. jessejamesfestival.com
Fall Fun Festival, Sept. 15-17, Downtown Blue Springs. bluespringsfallfestival.com
Nehemiah Festival, Sept. 15-16, Smith’s Fork Park, Smithville. nehemiahfest.com
Festival of the Lost Township, Sept. 16, Raytown Green Space. festivalofthelosttownship.org
Freedom Festival, Sept. 16-17, John Brown Museum State Historic Site, Osawatomie. kshs.org/john_brown
Friends of Shawnee Town Arts & Crafts Fair, Sept. 16, Shawnee Town. shawneetown.org
Uncorked: KC 90+, Sept. 16, Union Station. 90pluswinefestivals.com
Village West WineFest, Sept. 16, Schlitterbahn. villagewestwinefest.com
Waldo Fall Festival, Sept. 16, Waldo Area, 75th and Wornall. waldokc.com
Raymore Festival in the Park, Sept. 21-23, Raymore. raymorefestival.com
Lee’s Summit Oktoberfest, Sept. 22-23, Downtown Lee’s Summit. lsoktoberfest.com
Shawnee Great Grillers Blues and Barbeque State Championship, Sept. 22-23, Shawnee Town. shawneegreatgrillers.com
Ciderfest, Sept. 23-24 and Sept. 30-Oct. 1, Louisburg Cider Mill. louisburgcidermill.com/ciderfest
Grand Festival of Chez les Canses, Sept. 23, Fort Osage National Historic Landmark. makeyourdayhere.com
High Plains Brew Hoff, Sept. 23, Brew Lab. highplainsbrewhoff.com
Kansas Kids Fest, Sept. 23, Children’s Mercy Park. kansaskidsfest.com
Overland Park Fall Festival, Sept. 23, Santa Fe Commons Park. opkansas.org/events/overland-park-fall-festival
Wild West Days, Sept. 23-24, Mahaffie Stagecoach Stop & Farm. mahaffie.org
American Indian Cultural Celebration, Sept. 24, Nelson-Atkins Museum. nelson-atkins.org
Oktoberfest Celebration, Sept. 28-Oct. 1, Westport. westportkcmo.com
Universal Film Festival, Sept. 28-30, Cinemark Palace at the Plaza. universalfilmfestival.com
Gladfest, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, Gladstone. gladstonechamber.com/gladfest
Oktoberfest, Sept. 29, Shawnee Civic Centre. shawneegermanclub.org
Dust Bowl Jamboree, Sept. 30, E.H. Young Riverfront Park. visitplatte.com/event/dust-bowl-jamboree-2
Tobacco Festival, Sept. 30, Weston. westonmo.com
Applefest, Oct. 7-8, Weston. westonmo.com
Crossroads Crush: Art. Music. Spirit Festival, Oct. 7, Downtown Cameron. cameronmochamber.com
Festival of Arts, Crafts and Music, Oct. 7, Missouri Town 1855. makeyourdayhere.com
Greater Kansas City Japan Festival, Oct. 7, JCCC. kcjapanfestival.com
Harvest Moon American Indian Festival, Oct. 7, Osage Trail Station Neighborhood. harvestmoonfestivalkc.com
Oktoberfest, Oct. 7, Commercial Street Mall, Atchinson. visitatchison.com/event/oktoberfest
Scarecrow Festival, Oct. 7, Shawnee City Hall. visitshawneeks.com/event/scarecrow-festival
Weston Irish Festival, Oct. 13-15, O’Malley’s Pub & Courtyard. westonirish.com
Botanical Brewfest, Oct. 14, Overland Park Arboretum & Botanical Gardens. opabg.org
Grimm’s Indie Faire, Oct. 14, El Torreon. grimmsindie.org
Harvest Festival, Oct. 14, Shoal Creek Living History Museum. shoalcreeklivinghistorymuseum.com
Prairiefire Oktoberfest, Oct. 14, Prairiefire. visitprairiefire.com
Sprint Family Fun Days, Oct. 14, Power & Light District. powerandlightdistrict.com/familyfun
Glow: A Jack-O-Lantern Festival, Oct. 20-21, Powell Gardens. powellgardens.org
Pumpkins and Mums Fall Festival, Oct. 21, Hall of Waters Historic District, Excelsior Springs. visitexcelsior.com/fallfestival.html
Dogtober Fest, Oct. 22, Kemper Outdoor Education Center. makeyourdayhere.com
Mildale Farm Fall Fest, Oct. 28, Mildale Farm, Edgerton. jcprd.com/special_events/mildalefarm_fallfest.cfm
Kansas International Film Festival, Nov. 3-9, Glenwood Arts Theatre. kansasfilm.com
India Nite 2017, Nov. 4, Music Hall. iakc.org