What is a fall festival of leaves?

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autumn leaves
Autumn is a glorious time of the years. Many fall festivals of leaves are held across the country to celebrate nature's last fling.
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A fall festival of leaves celebrates nature's last hurrah before winter arrives

A fall festival of leaves is a celebration, in the autumn, in recognition of the brilliantly colored leaves that dot the landscape and put on a display that takes your breath away, particularly in certain areas of the country.

For example, in the small town of Bainbridge in Ross County, Ohio, an annual Fall Festival of Leaves has been held for more than forty years. The town is located on US 50 and is tucked in between beautiful hills (some look like mountains) that sport the most exquisitely colored leaves in the fall.

Artisans and craftsmen roll into the small southern Ohio town to display their wares during the annual fete and thousands of people visit the burg during the three-day long celebration to have fun, buy things, visit and marvel at the panoply of colors that surrounds them. It really is an impressive display of nature at its finest and it is also nature’s final hurrah before you-know-what: Bitterly cold weather and snow.

This breath-taking display of autumn leaves is one of the advantages of living in an area where there is a change of seasons. Those who live in the south don’t get to witness this occurrence.

Do you know why leaves change colors and become red and gold in the fall? Leaves and plants need chlorophyll because that is what makes them green. Chlorophyll allows photosynthesis to occur, which is the “putting together of light.”

When it is autumn, the days are shorter and there is less light. Photosynthesis cannot occur in the winter because there isn’t enough light or water to produce this process. The trees know that they need to prepare for winter. Trees rest in the winter and live off of the food that has been stored during the summer months.

In the fall, trees shut down what is considered to be their food-making factories. When this happens, the green that is created by chlorophyll disappears from the leaves and that is when you see the brilliant orange, red, yellow and purple colors. These colors were in the leaves all a long but you couldn’t see them because they were concealed by green chlorophyll.

In a maple tree, for instance, when photosynthesis ceases this causes glucose or sugar to become trapped in the leaves and this turns the leaves red. When you see red or purple leaves this is also the result of anthocyanin, which is a pigment and very potent. It is believed that anthocyanin helps trees maintain their leaves a bit longer. The pigment also protects the leaves from frost, lowering the freezing point, and from the sun in the summer months.

It is also thought that anthocyanin seeps into the ground when the leaves decay and fall from the tree and this prevents other species of plants from growing in that particular area.

When an oak tree’s leaves change color they become brown, which is the result of waste that remains in the leaves. When you see brown leaves in the fall this indicates the presence of tannin, which is a waste product that is bitter.

Trying to figure out when is the best time to see autumn leaves at their peak is a challenge because it differs in different areas. The weather can have an impact on when the leaves undergo their transformation.

In New England, the leaves usually start changing in the latter part of September. This pattern moves south and by early November it has reached the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. In the west, the high elevations experience the change in leaf color about the same time as it occurs in the Smoky Mountains.

In southern Ohio, the third weekend in October is deemed the best time to see the leaves in their glory, which is why the Bainbridge Fall Festival of Leaves is always scheduled for that particular weekend.

One thing to keep in mind is that high, cool elevated areas will experience leaf color change before it occurs in valleys.

Aah, yes, the cool, vibrant yet snuggly days of fall. Yummy.

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