New activities added to arts and crafts festival weekends in McGregor

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Several new activities, including a pie and tart baking contest and a parade, will add to the fun and beauty of the arts and crafts festival weekends in McGregor this year. (NIT file photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor

Several new activities will add to the fun and beauty of the arts and crafts festival weekends in McGregor this year. 

The McGregor-Marquette Chamber of Commerce’s annual Fall Arts and Crafts Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 6 and 7, while the Leaf Arts and Crafts Festival will run Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 13 and 14. 

Vendors selling a variety of homemade and handcrafted items will be set up in both Triangle Park and inside the event center at Backwoods Bar and Grill. Live music can also be heard in the park both weekends.

According to the chamber’s executive director, Kristie Austin, vendors will offer items like jewelry, quilts and other textiles, handcrafted journals, paintings, lighted glassware, woodworking, wooden signs and home decor, dips, wine and more. Some vendors for the Leaf Arts and Crafts Festival will be different, so she encourages people to stop by both weekends.

“We’ll have some really interesting things,” Austin shared.

A new food vendor will be selling unique treats like street tacos and a kale salad with wild rice and maple vinegar dressing. McGregor’s Pocket City American Legion Post will also have its food stand. 

More vendors are always welcome, and Austin encourages anyone who is interested to contact her at or (563) 873-2186.

A new event for the first festival weekend will be a pie and tart baking contest, held at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Old Man River Restaurant. Open to amateur bakers, Austin said it will be a fun event for all ages.

“When you talk about things that bring people together in rural Iowa, it’s food. And pie baking is a good avenue,” she noted. “It reaches all age groups. My granddaughters even help bake pies.”

Pies and tarts can be submitted in several categories, including fruit; nut; and cream, custard and pudding. 

“There are a wide variety of pies you can make,” Austin said, “so do whatever your specialty is.”

A special pie and tart category will be devoted to aronia berries, tying into the Mini Aronia Berry Fest held at McGregor’s By the Spoonful that same weekend.

Also commonly known as chokeberries, aronia berries are significantly higher in antioxidants than even blueberries, Austin said.

“There are a wide variety of things you can do with them, and we want to promote that,” she explained. “So bring out your grandmother’s cookbook and find that recipe for chokeberries.”

Contestants may enter up to three pies in the contest. There is a small entry fee for each pie. For each entry, one pie must be provided for judging and a second for an auction. A copy of the recipe on a 3x5 card or 8x10 paper must be included as well.

Each pie must be made from scratch and based in a 9- to 10-inch disposable pan or plate. Each pie must also include a cover. No pre-made or store-bought pie crust may be used.

Pies can be brought to Old Man River any time between 9:30 and 10:45 a.m. on Oct. 6. At that time, the pie will be given an entry number, maintaining the confidentiality of the baker. Judging will begin at 11 a.m., with each pie judged on overall appearance, crust, filling, flavor and creativity. Prizes will go to first- through third-place winners. 

After judging, pies will be sliced and sold to the general public. 

“You can see which one you want to buy at the auction,” Austin said. 

The bakers’ full second pies will be auctioned off, and a people’s choice award will be given to the baker whose pie is the top seller.

Another activity that will be new to McGregor’s schedule of fall events will be a parade on Saturday, Oct. 13. Rescheduled from Labor Day, the parade will carry over the theme of “McGregor Through the Ages,” encouraging participants to create a float or entry based around the community’s rich history.

Individuals, groups, organizations and businesses are all welcome to participate. Lineup will begin at 10 a.m., behind the MFL MarMac Middle School. The parade will begin at 11 a.m., heading up Main Street toward the river.

To sign up, please contact the chamber at or (563) 873-2186. You can also stop by the chamber office at 146 Main St., in downtown McGregor.

Austin said additional programming for that second weekend is also in the works. People can check back with the North Iowa Times or visit the “McGregor-Marquette, Iowa” Facebook page for more details as the date approaches.

She hopes the additional activities will make the area’s prime leaf-looking time even more memorable for both residents and visitors.

“It’s a good time to highlight our natural beauty as well as our history,” she said. “It encourages people to get out of their cars and enjoy the activities, the food, the atmosphere and the people we have in this area.”

In addition to activities in McGregor, Marquette also has some fun things planned. The Marquette Action Club’s flea market will be held “under the bridge” the first two weekends of October. Make sure to stop by the food stand in the city park.

The Driftless Area Wetlands Centre, in partnership with the Upper Iowa Audubon Society, will host Hawk Watch on Saturday, Oct. 6. The free event will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and include live bird programs and hands-on educational activities.

See next week’s North Iowa Times for more information about Hawk Watch, as well as By the Spoonful’s Mini Aronia Berry Fest.

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