Foliage, Tree Sitters Star in Appalachian Festival

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Some of the tree sitters use the event's popularity to advance their charitable causes. One woman this year will have a can at the base of her tree to collect money for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

According to Shaver, the tree-sitting contest has become the festival's calling card, "but if we didn't have such a variety of arts and crafts and good food, people wouldn't come back."

Scenic Attraction

Cohocton's population hovers near 900, and the number climbs to 1,200 if residents in the surrounding countryside are included. The low population has kept the tree-draped hills pristine, so in 1966 the townspeople decided to capitalize on the scenery.

"We just wanted to do something to have people come out and see the fall foliage," Cox said.

At first locals set up arts and crafts booths in their yards. Once the idea caught on, the city moved the fair to public spaces around town. It has since grown to become one of New York's largest fall festivals.

In addition to the tree sitting contest, festival goers this year will be treated to a soccer tournament, an arts and crafts flea market, live music, and a parade and fireworks show in celebration of Cohocton's bicentennial.

"And all our food is unique to the area. We do a lot of stuff with potatoes, like salt potatoes and baked potatoes," Cox said.

Fall Festivals

For leaf peepers in search of other fall festivals in the Appalachians, consider the following:

• The Shawnee Fall Foliage Festival, Shawnee on Delaware, Pennsylvania, October 14 to 16. Take a hot-air balloon ride to view the foliage in and around the Appalachian Mountains, Delaware River, and Delaware Water Gap National Park.

• Shenandoah Fall Foliage Bike Festival, Staunton, Virginia, October 14 to 16. Cycle winding country roads and trails through rolling hills and countryside with the mountains on the horizon in a riot of fall colors.

• New River Gorge Bridge Day, Fayette County, West Virginia, October 15. Walk out on the Western Hemisphere's longest single steel arch bridge and view the splendor of fall foliage below.

• Keene Pumpkin Festival in Keene, New Hampshire, October 22. Thousands of people are invited to carve a gourd and stick a candle in it. Last year, 27,854 lit jack-o-lanterns graced the street.

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