Readers Choice

10Best Readers' ChoiceChosen by readers of USA TODAY and 10Best

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    #10 - Maine Lobster Festival - Rockland, Maine

    The Maine Lobster Festival, a quintessential Midcoast experience, welcomes thousands of lobster lovers each summer to get their hands dirty picking away at fresh steamed lobster. Also on the menu: lobster rolls, lobster wraps, lobster salads, steamed clams, crab cakes and fried seafood, all served alongside events like the sea goddess coronation, parade, cooking contest, live entertainment and a crafts market.

    Photo courtesy of Maine Lobster Festival

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    #9 - ChocolateFest - Portland, Ore.

    In January 10,000 chocoholics from around the wold pack the Oregon Convention Center to taste and learn about the newest and most notable chocolate products on the market. Besides sweet tastings, Portland's ChocolateFest also hosts cooking and mixology demos (chocolate martini anyone?), chocolate and wine pairing talks, presentations on the chocolate-making process and health benefits of cocoa.

    Photo courtesy of limpido/iStock

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    #8 - Kona Coffee Cultural Festival - Kona, Hawaii

    The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival, Hawaii's oldest food festival, takes place on the Big Island each November and explores roughly two centuries of the region's coffee history. Events include the crowning of Miss Kona Coffee, Coffee Belt farm tours, live cultural performances, coffee tastings from 30 area farms, a coffee picking contest and panel discussions on the coffee growing industry.

    Photo courtesy of Kona Coffee Festival

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    #7 - Hatch Chile Festival - Hatch, N.M.

    Each Labor Day Weekend the Chile Capital of the World - Hatch, N.M. - hosts the Hatch Chile Festival to celebrate New Mexico's most beloved foodstuff. Visitors enjoy a parade, cook-off, crowning of the festival queen and tongue-tingling bites of traditional green and red chile recipes.

    Photo courtesy of New Mexico Tourism & Travel

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    #6 - Louisiana Seafood Festival - New Orleans

    The free and family-friendly Louisiana Seafood Festival brings fresh Gulf seafood, famous chefs and lively local entertainment to New Orleans each October. The three-day event includes a pavilion tent for live celebrity chef demos, a kids tent with activities from the Louisiana Children's Museum, an arts & crafts village, live music and vendors from around the state serving all variety of seafood treats.

    Photo courtesy of Louisiana Seafood Festival

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    #5 - Bayfield Apple Festival - Bayfield, Wis.

    The inviting small town of Bayfield celebrates autumn harvest during its annual Apple Festival in October. Visitors can tour orchards and sample apple treats -- tarts, pies, ciders and candied apples -- from 60 vendors; enjoy live music; and watch the Grand Parade march down historic Rittenhouse Avenue to Lake Superior.

    Photo courtesy of Bayfield Chamber and Visitor Bureau

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    #4 - Whoopie Pie Festival - Strasburg, Pa.

    The "Most Delicious Day in Lancaster County" is the annual Whoopie Pie Festival in September. The free festival, Pennsylvania Dutch Country's biggest annual party, lets visitors sample more than 100 flavors and varieties of the state's classic confection. Other events include eating contests, scavenger hunts, races, live music, a craft fair and the construction of the world's largest whoopie pie.

    Photo courtesy of Anne Faix, Hershey Farm

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    #3 - National Cherry Festival - Traverse City, Mich.

    Northern Michigan's biggest annual event, the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, welcomes more than half a million people each July to celebrate all things cherry. Alongside cherry edibles, festival goers will find a host of family-friendly entertainment and activities, including a parade, volleyball tournament, air show and live music on the bay.

    Photo courtesy of National Cherry Festival

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    #2 - Mushroom Festival - Kennett Square, Pa.

    The two-day Mushroom Festival takes over Kennett Square on the weekend after Labor Day. Visitors to the Mushroom Capital of the World during the event can learn about how mushrooms are cultivated through farm tours and growing exhibits, taste mushroom-inspired culinary creations, enjoy family fun at an old fashioned street carnival or participate in a variety of contests, like the National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship.

    Photo courtesy of The Mushroom Festival

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    #1 - Keene Pumpkin Festival - Keene, N.H.

    The small New England town of Keene becomes the pumpkin capital of the world for one day each October during the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival. Area schoolkids carve and decorate hundreds of pumpkins to form a towering wall of Jack-o-lanterns, and vendors serve up plenty of fall treats, such as apple crisp and maple cotton candy.

    Photo courtesy of Nicole Perry

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Keene Pumpkin Festival takes #1 with Readers

Mushrooms, Cherries, Whoopie PIes and Apples also tops

Keene Pumpkin Festival has taken the #1 spot in our Best Specialty Food Festival contest.  If you think it's the approach of fall that influenced our readers, or a love of Charlie Brown's 'Great Pumpkin' then you haven't been to Keene, New Hampshire for this mind-blowing Americana event.   

Keene's charming, historic downtown becomes a multi-generational hub for all things warm and fuzzy, as families enjoy thousands of creatively-lit and cleverly-carved pumpkins on display; pumpkin treats; fireworks and many fun surprises.   Patrons call it "amazing and beautiful" and evenings are, of course, when the real magic happens.   Cheers to Keene for creating such a memorable event!  

Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, took 2nd Place with its Mushroom Festival, followed by Traverse City, Michigan's popular National Cherry Festival.   The Whoopie Pie Festival in Strasburg, Pennsvlvania took 4th with our readers, and beautiful Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the hilly shores of Lake Superior, secured 5th with votes for the Bayfield Apple Festival.  

The other five winners are coast-to-coast and even beyond.   Last weekend's Hatch Chile Festival worked voters into enough of a frenzy that the smell of roasted chiles has also permeated the winners list.  

The full list of 10Best Readers' Choice winners in the 'Best Specialty Food Festival' contest category is as follows:

  1. Keene Pumpkin Festival - Keene, N.H.
  2. Mushroom Festival - Kennett Square, Pa.
  3. National Cherry Festival - Traverse City, Mich.
  4. Whoopie Pie Festival - Strasburg, Pa.
  5. Bayfield Apple Festival - Bayfield, Wis.
  6. Louisiana Seafood Festival - New Orleans
  7. Hatch Chile Festival - Hatch, N.M.
  8. Kona Coffee Cultural Festival - Kona, Hawaii
  9. ChocolateFest - Portland, Ore.
  10. Maine Lobster Festival - Rockland, Maine

Congrats to all our winners!  

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Meet the Experts

Eric Grossman

Eric Grossman is a food and travel writer based in Boston and New Orleans. He has edited dozens of DK Eyewitness Travel guides, and is constantly on the road searching for new and inspiring experiences. He's performed on stage with Coldplay, witnessed Ferran Adrià in action, and has visited more than 40 countries. His private dining club, Informed Diner, creates unique dinners at Boston's top restaurants.

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