Quad Cities, Iowa
Grab your conductor’s whistle and captain’s hat for the inaugural RiverWay 2006 Sept. 14-17. A 150th anniversary celebration of the first railroad bridge built across the Mississippi River, RiverWay offers train and boat rides — you can take day trips on the 1940s Milwaukee Road 261 steam engine and the Celebration Belle riverboat.
Trips are scheduled to neighboring towns, including a special Sunday rail-river expedition from Rock Island, Ill., to Muscatine, Iowa. Some rail trips cover the same track that carried the first Rock Island Line train across the Mississippi Bridge in 1856. You also can participate in special captain’s dinner cruises.
Ticket prices vary. Go to <www.visitquadcities.com> (click Calendar) or call (800) 747-7800 for further details.
Put on your dancing shoes for North America’s largest Oktoberfest celebration: the 30th annual Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati USA Sept 16-17. With more than 500,000 attendees each year, this free celebration boasts the world’s largest chicken dance (recognized in the 1995 through 1997 editions of the Guinness Book of World Records), as well as performances by authentic German bands. Bring your appetite for a bounty of German dishes — each year thousands of Bavarian cream puffs and hundreds of pickled pigs’ feet are served.
As always, a celebrity grand marshal will lead the annual giant chicken-dance rendition. Though this year’s marshal hadn’t been announced as of press time, past parade glitterati have included Verne Troyer (Mini Me in the Austin Powers films) and Motley Crüe’s Vince Neil. Visit <www.oktoberfest-zinzinnati.com> or call (513) 579-3124 for more information.
Two Rivers, Wisconsin
Bring your appetite to the Two Rivers Ethnic Festival Sept 16, where you’ll have your pick of eats from about 20 food booths. More than 100 crafters will sell wares such as hand-spun textiles from South America, ceramic tiles from Canada and shearling (sheepskin) products from New Zealand.
This 14th annual festival is the country’s largest ethnic celebration north of Milwaukee, attracting about 15,000 visitors. It begins with a parade of flags — they represent the 20-plus countries involved in the festival — presented by local Boy Scouts. Then watch live music and dance performances, including those by Milwaukee’s Cashel Dennehy School of Irish Dance, the Celtic a capella singing group Navan and the award-winning American Indian music and dance group Brule.
Admission is free. For more information, visit <www.trmainstreet.org> or call (920) 794-1482.
Ever wondered what it was like to be a Wild West cowboy, a 1770s American Indian or a Civil War solider? Find out at the Audrain County Historical Society’s fifth annual Walk Back in Time and Country Fair Sept. 22-24.
Time travelers can visit eight historical camps, including an 1880s Wild West outpost with pistol-toting cowboys, an American Indian camp with tepees and storytelling, and a Civil War camp with Union and Confederate soldiers. Other encampments depict World War II, the Spanish-American War, the 1830s “mountain men” period and the Colonial era.
Friday evening, you can jam to a Blue-grass band and indulge in country foods at a fish fry. Camps will get extra explosive Saturday and Sunday, when the WWII, Civil War and Wild West exhibitions feature battle re-enactments. Saturday night, take part in a candlelight tour.
Additionally, take a self-guided tour of the historical society’s antebellum Grace-land mansion, authentic one-room school-house, country church and the American Saddlebred Horse Museum — the oldest museum of its kind in the United States.
Admission to the camps is free; they open to the public Friday night. Fish fry tickets cost $8; the mansion and museum charge $1 entrance fees for self-guided tours. Candlelight tour tickets are $5 and must be purchased in advance. For additional information, visit <www.audrain.org/history_town.html> or call (573) 581-3910.
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
During the Civil War, the town of Harpers Ferry was in constant upheaval. On July 4, 1860 — just after the conflict began — German immigrant Frederick Roeder was mortally wounded as he stole away to glimpse the US flag across the Potomac River. The third annual Family Life 1860 in Harpers Ferry: The Frederick Roeder Story Oct. 21-22 honors his legacy. Before the war, workers gathered to debate politics at Roeder’s White Hall tavern — now part of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park.
You can stop at the tavern, too, on guided park tours each day of the event. Then help costumed staff crush, shred and squeeze apples during cider-making demonstrations in front of the tavern.