This column for the next two weeks covers one of the best, most fun filled, three day weekends you could ever hope to spend with your family during these first warm weeks of fall. Some of the best news about it is that it’s less than a two hour drive from the Portage Lakes.

That, folks, allows you to drive down one day, return home, drive down the next, return home again and then repeat the trip the third day. And all without having to foot the expense of motel rooms for the entire family. I’m referring, of course, to the Algonquin Mill Festival that’s held every October in Carroll County.

For years, there has never been an entrance fee. I’m assuming the same holds true this year. The only expense on entering is a parking fee.

For many, it has always been an economical family event. For us, it’s been a day filled with fun and topped with a bushel of laughs. It’s like rolling in a tent full of multi-colored beach balls with kids acting as if they were in a barrel filled with monkeys. At least that how we’ve always looked at it.

While it’s perpetually been held on the second weekend of October, each year the dates change. That’s about the time the leaves start reaching their peak colors in this area of the Buckeye state.

Now in it’s 46th year, it’s grown quite a bit since first we started taking our youngsters there each fall in the early 1970s. The kids have always looked forward to it. And each year it seems to have gotten a little bigger and much better.

I know there are many arts and craft festivals dotting the landscape of Ohio and surrounding states. But this one has so much more. This one is different. Rather than using young folks who have perfected their crafts as a hobby, the Algonquin Mill Festival uses local senior citizens whose skills have been perfected over the years for their own personal use. And they use the old time methods of producing that which they need and use in their daily lives. 

For example, rather than hiring others to show how sauerkraut is made, an elderly farmer and his wife actually make it at the festival just as they do for themselves. With help, they chop the cabbage, slice it and then add it to the homemade brine in huge old time crockery pots. You can buy it right there. Each year they make eight tons, and always sell out.

After missing it a number of years simply because I waited too long, by the time I got there they sold out and so I changed our schedule. One year, after arriving early, the sauerkraut wasn’t ready. No matter, I ordered 20 quarts, paid the lady, gave her our name and asked that she hold it for us to pick it up later when we leave. She was more than happy to comply.  

At home, we froze it in pint bags and, made the way sauerkraut was meant to be made, enjoyed this homemade delicacy throughout the winter. The only complaint I had was from the kids. Hauling the fresh kraut back in the station wagon that year, all I heard was, "Dad, it stinks back here." But then that’s a small price one has to pay for some of life’s golden treasures.

The Algonquin Mill Festival can be reached by driving southeast to Carrollton. From the Carrollton square, drive south for about five miles on Route 332. It’ll be on your left side. Just look for the festival with hundreds of cars parked there. You simply can’t miss it. And for your kids, you’ll be creating memories lasting a lifetime.

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