The Fall Foliage
Warner's Salute to the Season Ranks High
on New Hampshire's
Calendar of Autumn
For more than a hundred years, visitors and vacationers have been
consistently attracted to the little town of Warner, in central New Hampshire,
to enjoy its special beauty, charm and ideal scenic surroundings.
- Nestled in the wooded valley of the Warner River and featuring a splendid
landscape dominated by nearby Mt. Kearsarge rising to a lofty height of
almost 3,000 feet, Warner has long been a mecca for people who love the
- Little wonder then, that the community's well-deserved reputation for
hosting country fairs and festivals has spread far beyond its borders,
inspiring visitors to come back each year for more. And this is in no small
measure due to the renowned Fall Foliage Festival, which next year, 2011, celebrates its
- Warner, being originally an agricultural town, has been identified with
fairs ever since the days of the old Merrimack County Fair when such men as
Governor Isaac Hill used to address the farmers. Those were the days when
the earliest grafted fruit was in its prime and exhibited in the Baptist
meetinghouse together with the mammoth vegetables and ladies' handiwork.
- That sort of fair went by, but in 1871 the first street fair in Warner was
inaugurated by Stephen Pate and it was popular enough to be repeated again
the following year.
- Then, in 1873, a big fair was held at River Bow Park. a beautiful tract of
about twelve acres on the bend of the Warner River, laid out from land of N.
G. Ordway for that purpose. He even erected buildings and stalls, and also
made a track for horse-trotting.
- As all the communities surrounding Kearsarge Mountain participated in the
fair, an operating company named The Kearsarge Agricultural and Mechanical
Association was formed. One memorable year, a sight was witnessed on the
fairgrounds not likely ever to be seen again; 428 yoke of magnificent oxen
and steers were hitched together in line and driven around the half-mile
track. Another year there was a huge barbecue, with the largest turnout in
these parts since the one at Hillsborough during Franklin Pierce's campaign
for the presidency.
- Owing to unfortunate circumstances, interest for a time declined. But in
1895, a new era was started when annual fairs at River Bow Park were
reintroduced under the auspices of the Merrimack County Grange Fair
Association. Even the passenger trains to Warner made special stops at the
Park entrance on fair days, and these yearly events were successfully
carried on well into the 20th century.
- From the 1930s to the 1950s, Warner was the ski center of southern New
Hampshire. "Snow trains" from Boston brought skiers to Warner to
try their luck on Breakneck Hill, a steep slope on the south side of town.
Fourteen inns grew up around the area to accommodate the winter tourists.
The whole town came out the night two trains arrived carrying the entire
John Hancock Life Insurance Co. of Boston. The 19-car entourage included the
company president, his employees and a separate staff of policemen and
nurses. About 1500 turkey dinners were consumed that night, along with
gallons of "Warner River coffee."
- Later, although large numbers of people still came to Warner, especially
to ski in the winter and to fish in the spring, there seemed to be a lull in
activity between summer and fall. To keep Warner humming the year round,
John P. H. Chandler, Jr., got together with two other local gentlemen - the
late Richard K. Townsend and the late Thomas J. McGiII and decided to hold
an annual celebration in the autumn, called the Warner Fall Foliage
Festival. The first one was held in 1947, then a year was skipped,
but it was resumed in 1949. Since then, the Festival has grown and
prospered, until today it is the biggest event in town and known far and
- The event takes place annually on Columbus Day weekend in October when the
forests blaze forth in myriad shades of red and gold. It is particularly the
maple trees that produce this riot of color, and there is an abundance of
maples throughout the Warner countryside.
- At the Festival, old friends meet again each year to share in the
excitement of the parade, listen to the bands, and savor barbecued chickens
and lobsters. Woodsmen contests and Oxen pulling are other activities
usually on the schedule. The Town Hall is filled with Arts and Crafts
exhibits produced by many talented local artists.
- One might wonder what happens to the money spent by the influx of large
crowds of visitors to Warner. First of all, the Fall Foliage Festival Inc.
is a nonprofit organization devoted exclusively to civic improvement. If you
stroll around Warner, you'll see a modern Fire Station built with Festival
funds and the efforts of the firemen themselves. Another year's receipts
went for landscaping the school grounds and providing a recreation area for
youngsters. And on other occasions, Festival funds have purchased a police
radio, new chairs for the Town Hall, a memorial plaque on the fire Station,
a new rope at the former Ski Tow, street signs, town hall improvements and
other civic projects. Of course, to achieve these profits a great deal of
volunteer work is done by practically every resident of the community, each
helping in different ways.
- As summer ripens into fall and the New Hampshire countryside readies
itself for the gathering beauty of autumn's brilliant hues, the little town
of Warner will once again prepare for its autumn Fall Foliage Festival -
this year, 2011, its 64th.
Click Here to visit the Festival's own Web
Click Here for previous Festival's Photo Index
- By Frederick A. Brofos
- (updated by Dick Cutting)