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MAPLEWOOD STATE PARK has already begun to show its colors, but the park's fall foliage viewing is expected to reach its peak in the next 10 days. (Pippi Mayfield/Tribune)

'Colors of autumn'

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Photos by: Pippi Mayfield

There's been no shortage of moisture in the lakes area during this past spring and summer -- and that's very good news for fans of fall foliage.

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"With the amount of moisture we've had this year, the fall color season should be beautiful, with brilliant colors," said Jeff Fjestad, assistant park manager at Maplewood State Park.

The green leaves of summer have already started giving way to the bold reds, golds and oranges of fall, and Fjestad said he expects the color to reach its peak in the next 10 days.

So why do leaves' colors alter so dramatically in the fall? Fjestad said it's a combination of shorter days and cooler nights that triggers the change.

"Right now is a really pretty time (for viewing), with all the contrasting colors," he said, adding that people driving through Maplewood State Park this week will see "shades of orange and yellow, with a backdrop of green."

The crimson red of the sumac trees and hints of reddish-orange in the maples adds yet another color to nature's palette -- and Maplewood's 9,250 acres are filled with an abundance of the very hardwood trees that provide such a symphony of color.

Similar changes are occurring at Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge.

"There's still a lot of green, but we're starting to see quite a bit of color too," said Kelly Blackledge, visitor services manager at Tamarac. "There are a lot of oranges and yellows... the (Blackbird) auto tour route through the Refuge is a beautiful drive right now. It's just gorgeous, and more colors will be coming out over the next couple of weeks."

To celebrate the beauty of the fall season, both Maplewood and Tamarac are planning special events. The Friends of Maplewood will host their annual Leaf Days celebration over the next two weekends, Sept. 25-26 and Oct. 2-3, while Tamarac's fall festival is set for Saturday, Oct. 2.

Visitors at both Tamarac and Maplewood can enjoy the beautiful scenery from their vehicles, on foot, or by bicycle.

Maplewood will also have horse-drawn wagon rides to view the colors on all four days, while at Tamarac, there will be guided bus tours on Oct. 2 at 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

But that's not all. At Maplewood, there will be a children's activity time this Saturday, Sept. 25, and a Digital Scavenger Hunt on Saturday, Oct. 2. Both events start at 1:30 p.m. An "Introduction to Geocaching" class will be offered by Penny Brynildson at 1:30 p.m. on both Saturdays. All activities begin at the Josh Hanson Memorial Picnic Shelter.

At Tamarac, a variety of free events will be held to "Celebrate Tamarac's Bounty" -- the theme for this year's fall festival. Learn all about Minnesota's wild rice -- see where it grows, and how it is processed, through authentic native demonstrations. Hike the nature trail and take the Winter Preparation Challenge to discover how Minnesota wildlife prepares for the cold winter months ahead. Participants will receive a prize after completing the challenges. Also make sure to check out the Nature and Wildlife Silent Auction and displays of native crafts.

"You can view the entries in our photo contest and vote on your favorites," Blackledge added.

Food, snacks and beverages will be available for purchase -- including some tasty pork loin sandwiches for lunch -- and you can browse the bookstore, which is stocked with end-of-season deals and special gifts.

Proceeds from the lunch, silent auction and bookstore purchases will be used to help fund the transportation costs for student field trips to Tamarac, Blackledge noted.

Both Fjestad and Blackledge said that visitors to either or both of these festivals should make sure to bring their camera, as photographic opportunities will be in abundance.

For more information, call Maplewood State Park at 218-863-8383 or Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge at 218-847-2641.

Other fall activities

Tamarac and Maplewood aren't the only places that will be buzzing with activity over the next couple of weeks.

Lake Park's annual Pumpkin Fest starts Friday, Sept. 24, and continues through Saturday, Sept. 25. Pumpkin carving and lawn decorating contests, plant and produce sales, a craft and vendor show, kids' pedal tractor pull, classic car show, Little Miss Pumpkin Fest pageant and more are planned, culminating in the annual Pumpkin Fest Parade on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

The fourth annual Frazee Fall Festival is also slated for Saturday, providing area residents an opportunity to celebrate fall with various activities including the community-wide rummage sale, which runs all day. A vendors' show, Tour de Leaves 5K race/walk and bean bag tournament are also planned, and for those who haven't had their fill of the fall colors, the fourth annual American Veterans Memorial Bike Ride begins at noon at Lakeside Tavern in Detroit Lakes and ends at the Frazee VFW.

Bob for apples, carve a pumpkin, go for a hayride and enjoy delectable food at Perham's Harvest Fest, set for Saturday, Oct. 2. The fun begins at 9 a.m. with a flea market, fall retail savings throughout the community, a live band (After Dark), magician, petting zoo, community rummage sale and more.

The Midnight Cruisers host their 10th annual fall foliage cruise on Saturday, Oct. 2, departing at 10 a.m. from the junction of Highway 59 South and County Road 6. Travel distance is about 140 miles on scenic roads, with several stops along the way. Cruise is open to anyone with a classic car or interest in them. It is free.

And on Sunday, Oct. 3, you can get your polka on at the 14th annual Frazee Oktoberfest. German food and music are the focus of this festival. Featured bands will include Dain's Dutchmen of Sleepy Eye, Minn., and the Larry Olsen Band of Lake Denton, Minn. Tickets are $10. Call 1-800-407-2488 for more information.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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