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Colors of the season

While New England has always been considered the prime place to view the changing colors of fall, you don’t have to necessarily travel out of state to enjoy fabulous fall colors in 2004.

With a relatively mild summer in the Southland this year, Alabama should be due for a very vibrant color change this fall. The highlands of our state’s northern half will be transforming into a brilliant sea of yellow poplars, scarlet dogwoods, orange maples and golden hickories, with colors peaking in late October and early November.

State parks offer great color

In fact, &uot;Group Travel Leader&uot; Magazine named North Alabama, along with Maryland, Massachusetts and Delaware as one of the top places for &uot;falling in love with fall.&uot; The magazine mentioned several Alabama state parks as great locations for viewing the beautiful fall colors, including Jo Wheeler State Park in Rogersville, DeSoto State Park in Fort Payne, Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville and Cheaha State Park near Lineville.

According to Alabama State Parks Director Mark Eastwood, there are several sites in these parks that are especially scenic during the fall color change.

&uot;Joe Wheeler has a wonderful spot next to the dam and near the cabin area on the Lawrence County side, and DeSoto boasts great autumn scenery at Little River Canyon and DeSoto Falls,&uot; says Eastwood.

Other prime spots include breathtaking views of the Tennessee Valley at Monte Sano along the Warpath Ridge Trail and its overlook, and Cheaha’s Bald Rock and Pulpit Rock Trails, both of which have &uot;spectacular&uot; views, Eastwood says. Other state park areas and fall color sites can be found in the Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel’s Fall Color Trail brochure.

Calling all leaf watchers

Do you want to know just when and where the leaves will be at their peak color and beauty? The Alabama Bureau of Tourism and Travel provides avid leaf watchers with weekly updates on fall colors, recommended scenic drives, and special fall activities. These weekly updates and the Fall Color Trail Brochures are available on the state tourism website at www.800alabama.com or by calling 1-800-ALABAMA.

The Science of Autumn

We all enjoy the beauty of changing fall leaves. But do you know the reason why Mother Nature gives us those brilliant scarlets and golds? (You probably learned this back in science class, but it doesn’t hurt to have a refresher course now and again…)

Several different factors go into producing Alabama’s wonderful fall colors. During the summer, leaves are given their green color by the chemical chlorophyll that the tree sends its leaves in order to conduct photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is the process by which trees take in sunlight and convert it into chemical energy while releasing oxygen.

The shorter days and cooler temperatures of fall reduce the amount of chlorophyll the tree sends to it leaves. Since there is less and less of the &uot;green stuff&uot; in the leaves, the leaves begin turning from green to hues of yellow and orange.

Why are some leaves so much more vibrant than others? It all depends on how much sugar is &uot;trapped&uot; in the leaf. The more sugar a leaf has trapped in it, the brighter its color will be and the more variations you will see of reds, bright oranges, and purples.

The best colors result when there are sunny fall days, cool nights and enough rainfall to keep the leaves from falling too soon.

Fall festivals abound

With fall’s cooler days and lower humidity, autumn is a wonderful time to enjoy Alabama’s many fall festivals and events.

First and foremost, we must mention Greenville’s own &uot;GRITS&uot; Festival (formerly known as Oktoberfest) slated for Saturday, Oct. 30 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in historic Confederate Park in downtown Greenville.

Live music, magic shows, fine art, arts and crafts, collectibles, a grits cook-off, a grits smorgasbord, children’s games, crafts activities and more are all part of this fun, free day presented by Greenville Main Street.

Mark your calendars, everyone!

Here are some other opportunities to enjoy outdoor events in the beautiful Alabama fall weather:

n Governor’s Mansion Fall Garden Tour in Montgomery, Oct. 22-24, 1-5 p.m.

Visitors will tour both the 1907 Colonial Revival mansion and the gardens. Call (334)-242-4169.

n Brundidge Peanut Butter Festival, Brundidge, Oct. 23.

The focus is on the peanut and its many uses; however visitors can also enjoy great arts, crafts and entertainment. Call (334)-735-3125 for more info.

n Fall Color Cruise at Goose Pond Colony, Scottsboro, Oct. 29-3.

Three days of live entertainment, arts and crafts, Cherokee Powwow, antique appraisal, kids’ fun area and much more. Call (256)-259-2884.

n Little River Canyon Field School’s Fall Color Hike, Lookout Mountain, Fort Payne. Nov. 6, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m. Call (256)-782-5697 for more information.

n Market Days at Saint Paul’s, Magnolia Springs, Nov. 6, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Full day of artists, artisans, collectibles, gourmet luncheon and Silent Auction is offered to visitors. Call (251)-965-7037 for more information.

n Pinhoti Trail Hike at Cheaha Mountain, Talladega. Nov. 6, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Pack water, lunch, snacks and a camera! Call (256)-782-5697.

n Alabama Pecan Festival, Mobile. Nov. 5-7.

Three-day event features crafts, food, carnival rides, country and gospel music, Queens, Songwriters and Talent Contests, World’s Tallest Pinball Machine, Sunday morning worship service with Bourbon St. Chaplain Bro. Bob Harrington. Free admission; call (251)-366-1892 or go to www.alabamapecanfestival.com.

n Christmas Open House at Southern Homes and Gardens, Montgomery. Nov. 6-7. Picture-perfect gardens adorned for the holiday season, demos, prizes and more. Call (888)-565-1362.

n National Peanut Festival, Dothan. Nov. 5-13.

Honors farmers and all aspects of agribusiness and agriculture; livestock exhibits, competitions, crafts and hobbies, food preservation, cooking contests, entertainment, carnival rides, pageants and parade. Call(334)-793-4323.

n Pioneer Day at Grove Hill, the Clarke County Museum. Nov. 13, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Living history demonstrations of salt making, blacksmithing, rug hooking, oxen pulling, flintknapping, cross-cut sawing and more.

Children’s activities, storytelling, bluegrass music, Indian camp and cane syrup making will be offered. Contact(251)-275-8684.

For a complete list of other festivals and events across Alabama this fall, call 1-800-ALABAMA or go to www.800alabama.com. Have a happy fall, y’all!