The change in season also brings thousands to the quaint town of Cedarburg (20 miles north of Milwaukee) for the annual Wine and Harvest Festival. Eric and I were among the many that couldn't have picked a better afternoon to go.
Cedarburg’s festivals are a celebration of arts and crafts, music, food and family fun all in the center of its charming historic downtown district – and the Wine and Harvest Festival certainly boasts the same flair.
The 34th year of this festival features local award-winning wines and foods such as brats and burgers as well as seasonal favorites like apple cider (which was fantastic), kettle corn and caramel apples covered in peanuts, cookie crumbs or candy bits. In addition, kids’ activities are offered during the day and the streets pulse with live music in the evenings; and of course there are numerous arts and crafts on display throughout the afternoon.
Upon entering into Cedarburg’s historic district, I was awe-struck by the surprising number of festival-goers flooding the entire stretch of Washington Avenue. We had expected this to be a rather quiet venue, but it was more reminiscent of the crowds at Summerfest (but more tolerable).
After weaving through the residential streets for a while, we finally found parking on one of the side roads only a couple blocks away from the Festival. We attempted to take the hayride shuttle that continuously takes visitors to various stations throughout downtown, but it was already brimming with families and other festival-goers. Since we didn’t know the area very well we followed the strollers and music to where the tents and stands scattered the streets.
As we neared the festival, we walked along side the Cedar Creek Park where we had to skip over the sidewalk so not to ruin the chalk art done by participants in the “Chalk It Up” art contest. Mermaids, pumpkins and sailboats covered nearly a mile long stretch of pavement. Chalk artist Kitty Dyble Thompson did several demonstrations for adults and children who were interested in entering the competition as well.
The park also held plenty of activities for the kids that weren’t making chalk masterpieces. Parents could relax on benches overlooking the river as their children painted pumpkins or murals, rode ponies or bounced around in the inflatable pirate ship; some even had a ghost or black cat painted on their face to celebrate the approaching holiday.
Finally we reached the edge of the Festival where we entered and collided with the many patrons of the Farmer's Market who were busy purchasing organic fruits, veggies or flowers from local farmers.
Further into the Festival was a favorite attraction of mine, “Arts on the Avenue,” which featured an astonishing number of exhibits and the area’s best local talent. This made for unique shopping as we strolled along looking for that one-of-a-kind treasure.
Surprisingly, over 200 tents and stands from Midwest craftsmen were nestled in between the 19th century stone buildings and the enticing array of specialty shops, cozy restaurants and inviting taverns were oozing with charm. But let's not forget that we were celebrating the Wine and Harvest Festival…
One of the main reasons why we decided to come to this Festival was to sample some local wines. Eric and I examined the wine selections and felt a little disappointed by the lack of native Wisconsin wines on hand. After searching for more options, we found a stand serving several types of wine from the Cedar Creek Winery. A-ha! That was exactly what we were looking for!
Festival-goers had the option of buying a whole bottle of wine and parading around the Festival with it. We opted for a bottle of Cedar Creek’s Hillside Red even though we were a little turned off when the vendor gave us a disgusted look for asking to sample it before coughing up the $15. Either way we were satisfied with our choice.
With a bottle of wine tucked under our arm we ducked in and out of the shops and taverns along the way poking and prodding at various items we found interesting.
The weaving worked up a hearty appetite, so we decided to end the evening with an early dinner at Cream & Crepe Café. This is a restaurant that we had heard of a while back and had been anxious to try ever since.
The café was tucked away in the back of one of the historic buildings, which also serviced several unique shops like an antique store, pottery shop and old-fashioned general store. As the name suggests they serve crepes, but not just for dessert – even the entrees were some form of crepe. Unfortunately the entrees themselves were nothing spectacular, but the chocolate mousse crepe for dessert was to die for!
This was the perfect kick-start to autumn and an ideal way to spend a Saturday afternoon shopping and munching on harvest flavored treats. I really enjoyed the small-town ambiance, the friendly people and the old-fashioned charm of Cedarburg. I will happily return for another mid-day trip from Milwaukee sometime soon – maybe for the Winter Festival in February.