Highland County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Chris Swecker gave us a run-down on the food and entertainment aspects of this year’s Hands and Harvest Festival in part one of this story.  Today, Chris tells us about the Harvest Trail and other points of interest.

One of the best parts of the Hands and Harvest Festival is our self-guided Harvest Trail. Essentially, this is a list of unique locations throughout Highland County, some that are open exclusively to the public only during limited times like this festival. In other words, seeing some of these places might be your only chance within a year to do so without a special appointment. Visitors can take their time visiting places like farms and sugar camps and this year we have expanded to 18 locations.  The maps with specifics will be available at local stores and online at highlandcounty.org.

For instance, the restored fire tower on Jack Mountain will be open with extended hours starting on Friday at 3:00 p.m. to a half an hour after sunset and a half an hour before sunrise on Saturday and Sunday. So, imagine looking out over Highland all the way to the surrounding counties to take in that fall foliage.  Closer to the Pocahontas and Bath County line entrances of Highland, you’ll get to see a sugar camp that is not open during the Maple Festival, and that is Back Creek Farms, where you can see where their regular, infused and barrel-aged syrups are developed. Barn quilts are a staple in Highland County and you can view exactly where many of those are made in the western part of the county at the Highland Barn Quilt Studio.

You can schedule a one-hour guided backyard foraging tour or learn more about forest bathing at Emerald Mountain Sanctuary.  You can meet the local beekeeper at Thorny Bottom Bees and taste local honey.  On the eastern portion of the county, in the Doe Hill area, the Elegius Mini Equine Sanctuary will have educational tours and interactive opportunities with miniature horses, donkeys and ponies which should be a hit for children.  In the Palo Alto area along the Pendleton County border, a farm tour on Sunday will let visitors discover information about quote year zero farming with minimal tillage, planting and micro greens at the newly established Wind Runner Farm.

Other activities include fishing for trout, picking pumpkins, bringing your own apples to make cider, stirring apple butter, petting farm animals, taking a tractor ride, and the list goes on. I encourage you to check out the maps online and in stores in the area so you can plan your weekend accordingly and see the individual hours because most of the locations are close to each other and you can hit several in one outing, no matter if you’re coming from Bath, Pocahontas, Pendleton or beyond.

Of course, we have staples of the festival that are always exciting.  Arts and crafts vendors will be open on the Monterey courthouse lawn on Friday from 3:00 to 7:00 p.m. and Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Our used book sale returns at the Highland County Public Library, and the annual sweater sale will be at Monterey Presbyterian Church this year, benefiting Little Big Dog Rescue. The Highland County Humane Society will host their Family Fun Day on Saturday with all kinds of activities for children, like a bouncy house, face painting and giant bubbles.  And there will also be a rabies and microchip clinic available.  The Blue Grass Ruritans will host their annual Rod Run and Car Show with vintage cars that will do a parade loop in the northwest part of the county from Blue Grass starting around 1:00 p.m.

So we hope you enjoy a leisurely weekend in our cozy mountains. There’s a lot of support from the local community and we feel that it’s important to share our harvest with the world.  So, we look forward to seeing you there.  Again, it is October 11th through the 13th and you can learn more at highlandcounty.org.

So, there you have it, except you don’t, because this year’s festival is simply too expansive to cover in a two-part story.  See for yourself when you come to stunningly beautiful Highland County.  This is Mickey Frank Thomas for Allegheny Mountain Radio News.

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Mickey Frank Thomas

Mickey Frank began his radio career in October 2017 when he was offered the impossible-to-fill 9:00 p.m. to midnight slot on Saturdays, where his coordinated mix of pop, soft rock and R&B from the 60s through the 80s met with little acclaim. Deciding that he needed a more awake audience, he added the 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. afternoon drive slot to his workload when it became available in December 2018. Originally from Morton, Illinois, good, old Mickey Frank has lived in more places than he can count on his fingers and toes, but now resides in Highland County.  Email Mickey Frank at  mickeyfrank@amrmail.org.

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