I confess. I'm a Silver Dollar City junkie. I love that place, and buy a season pass each year. So you will see frequent posts and references about Silver Dollar City and Branson on this blog. Please bear with me.

Just last weekend, I enjoyed checking out this fall's National Harvest and Cowboy Festival, running now through Oct. 31 at Silver Dollar City (open Wednesdays through Sundays). With the current amazing weather, the time is perfect for a trip to the Ozarks and a day spent visiting with more than 125 visiting artists and craftsmen gathered at the park for the festival. It's the ideal way to begin your holiday shopping.

The artisans were carefully selected to provide quality items and a wide variety of skills. Many are juried members of the Best of Missouri Hands; their booths are identified with a sign.

Artists from this area are well represented. Among them are Rose Monzyk, milliner, and Pat McCarty, blacksmith, from Washington; Donna and Gary McFarland, fiber artists and weavers, from Union; Ron Emig, sculptor, from Leslie; and Steve Gardner, woodworker and furniture maker, from Defiance.

The 125 visiting crafts persons are in addition to the 100 Silver Dollar City artists who are there year round, including basket makers, glass etchers, glass blowers, knife makers, woodcarvers, furniture makers, potters and candle makers.

Although the crafts are a big attraction during the harvest festival, it is also time for A Salute to the Great American Cowboy. This part of the festival includes the Wild West Show, with trick riders, bullwhip artist, trick roper, Native American dancer and more (through Oct. 18); chuck wagon cooking with Food Network star Kent Rollins (through Oct. 24); and Buck Taylor's Cowboy Emporium featuring Buck Taylor of Gunsmoke fame. (This is the 60th anniversary of that beloved television series.)

Other returning attractions include the ever-popular barn dance, wild mustangs, cowboy musicians and cowboy poets, plus a live Great American Country show each evening in Echo Hollow (through Oct. 25).

Around the square, you'll find fall harvest activities, such as sorghum and apple butter making. Everywhere you turn, the park is decorated for the season with fall-colored flowers, gourds and flags. As always, the rides, the shops and the food stands and restaurants are open for business. Seasonal foods such as soups, stews, and skillet meals will tempt your taste buds. You can even take a cooking class at the Midwest Living Culinary and Craft School to learn some seasonal recipes. And you can always take a tour of Marvel Cave.

Can you blame me for being a Silver Dollar City fan? There's just so much to love.

For more information, visit www.silverdollarcity.com or call 800-831-4386. For information about the Branson area in general, visit www.explorebranson.com or call 800-296-0463.