TRENTON, N.J.—Mercer County starts off the season right, packing weekends with fun family events at the right price and close to home.
“Mercer County families have much to look forward to this fall,” said County Executive Brian M. Hughes. “For minimal cost, the entire family can enjoy a series of weekend events in the coming month. There is no need to spend a lot of money or travel far, it’s all right here.”
The seasonal festivities begin the first weekend of the month, Oct. 3-4, at Howell Living History Farm’s annual Fall Festival, where visitors earn their share of the harvest. The 26th Annual Fall Festival is reminiscent of a time when giant threshing rigs rumbled through the Mercer countryside stopping at farms to help families thresh their wheat. Visitors to this festival take on the role of “helping neighbors,” joining farmers as they plant, thresh, winnow and grind wheat, and for their efforts will take home their share of the harvest -- a bag of freshly milled whole wheat flour complete with recipe.
A highlight of this year's festival will be a threshing operation powered by a 10-ton Case steam engine. Children can help the engineer carry wood and water needed to run the big steamer. In keeping with the festival's theme, “A Celebration of Wheat,” there will be a whole wheat bake sale, wheat weaving demonstrations and crafts, and wheat straw wagon rides. The Jugtown Mountain String Band will provide live music during the Saturday program. Fall Festival hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.
On Saturday, October 10, the Mercer County Music Fest continues with back-to-back free concerts at Mercer County Park in West Windsor. Jimmy and the Parrots, a Jimmy Buffett tribute band, takes the stage at 3 p.m., followed by 2U “The World’s Second Best U2 Show,” at 6 p.m. In between the shows, Mercer County hosts its first Burger Mania, where local restaurants and caterers will compete for bragging rights of the best area burger. Mini burgers will be available for purchase. Among those competing are Dublin Square Irish Pub, McCaffrey’s, Killarney’s Publick House and Funnibonz, and judges include Douglas Fee and Frank Benowitz of the Mercer County Community College Hotel and Restaurant Management School, and Pat Tanner, food and travel writer, restaurant critic and radio talk show host. The Goddard School Kid Zone will feature games and prizes for children of all ages and the Hibernian Beverage Garden will offer a variety of libations at the event. Bring your family to this free event from 3 to 8 p.m. For information about this event, call (609) 448-7107.
Also on Oct. 10, Mercer County 4-H will host its annual Fall Fest and Open House, where children can learn more about local 4-H programs. The Open House is from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Lawrence Nature Center, off Route 206 on Drexel Avenue. Activities include an autumn hike, pumpkin painting, apple dipping, scarecrow making and more. The event is free. For more information, contact Kate Everett at (609) 989-6833.
And finally on Oct. 10, Howell Living History Farm will host its annual Pumpkin, Popcorn and Indian Corn Harvest. Pumpkin picking and guessing the weight of large pumpkins are among the activities that will be offered. Besides picking pumpkins and Indian corn for their doorsteps, windowsills and centerpieces, visitors can help harvest pumpkins for the Farm’s pigs, cattle and chickens, the chief consumers of pumpkins, historically. Children can help farmers process pumpkins for livestock feed throughout the day. For sale will be pumpkin pie and baked goods, and “pick-your-own” pumpkins. All are invited to guess the weight of a giant pumpkin, with results and prizes announced at 3 p.m. A children’s craft workshop will be available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at a cost of $2. For more information, call (609) 737-3299. www.howellfarm.org.
On Saturday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. is annual favorite, Touch a Truck. Sponsored by the Mercer County Improvement Authority, Touch a Truck will be in the parking lot of Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton. This rain-or-shine event gives children of all ages an opportunity to connect with vehicles that get the job done. Fire trucks, ambulances, loaders, garbage trucks, mail trucks, police motorcycles and more will be on display for children to visit. County employees and owners of area companies will be on hand to answer questions and assist children into and onto the vehicles. Admission is free with refreshments for sale. Also on site will be friendly mascots “Bob the Builder,” “Scorch” of the Trenton Devils ice hockey team, and “Will U. Recycle” of the MCIA. www.mcia.com.
The weekend fun continues with Annual Family Fun and Safety Day on Sunday, October 18, from noon to 3 p.m. at Mercer County Park near the Marina. Again, children will have access to explore a variety of emergency response vehicles, in addition to meeting Sheriff’s Officers and firefighters, plus face painting, a magic show, pony rides, games, a canine demonstration, and music from a live DJ. Families can also obtain free information on fire and crime prevention from the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office. Admission to this event is free and is sponsored by the Mercer County Sheriff's Office, the Mercer County Emergency Communications Office, the Mercer County Firemen's Association, and the Mercer County Commission on Abused, Neglected, and Missing Children.
On Sunday, Oct. 25, visitors can spend the day at Mercer County’s Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mercer County Equestrian Center in Pennington. Admission to this event is free and offers an array of festive treats. Children can show off their Halloween costumes in a parade, and there will be hayrides, cider pressing, scavenger hunt, presentation by the Mercer County Wildlife Center, Parade of Breeds Horse Show, music and much more. Food and refreshments will be available. To participate in the scarecrow contest, call (609) 730-9059 for information.
And finally, on Halloween, Oct. 31, Howell Living History Farm will offer Autumn Hayrides from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. over the lanes of the 130-acre working historic farm off Valley Road, Titusville. For more information, call (609) 737-3299. www.howellfarm.org.