BOOTHBAY — As the season turns from summer to fall, the Boothbay Railway Village turns its attention from a busy tourist season to the festivals and holiday events that will highlight the rest of the year.

The village’s staff and group of volunteers is preparing for the upcoming Family Harvest Days, the Fall Foliage Festival, ghost train Halloween event and several activities around the holidays in December.

Executive director Margaret Hoffman said Family Harvest Days, set for Sept. 29-30, is designed to provide family fun without the hassle of traveling to the big fairs and festivals around the state.

“Our idea was to make a family festival in the fall during agricultural fair season that a family can do in half a day so they don’t miss nap time,” Hoffman said during a recent interview in her office on the railway village campus.

At the upcoming Family Harvest Days, which began in 2014, there will be pumpkin hay rides, a pumpkin patch with decorating station, butter churning, brown bread, chickens, goats, rabbits, cows, traditional crafts and artisans and hands on activities where children can make something and take it home.

And, as usual, there will be train rides.

There will also be a sheepherding demonstration. Rori Smith, the railway village’s education assistant, said the idea is to showcase how Mainers traditionally prepared themselves, their crops and their animals for winter.

“During Family Harvest Days, the museum village is animated,” Smith said. “It truly is a lively sensory experience to be surrounded by the activities of historic daily life; from the smell of fresh brown bread, to the rhythmic clatter of a weaver’s loom, the heat of a blacksmith’s forge and the graceful darting of a sheepdog at work.”

The 51st Annual Fall Foliage Festival returns to the railway village on Columbus Day weekend, and Hoffman said this year’s event will feature more than 100 craft vendors and artisans, about 15 food vendors and activities for children throughout the weekend.

“It’s been the place to be in Maine on Columbus Day weekend for more than 50 years,” she said. “It’s a tradition to come over, hear your favorite local band play, grab a cup of chowder from the Lion’s Club and start your Christmas shopping with the fantastic variety of fine art and crafts.”

Tabor and Valerie Young, of Boothbay Harbor, said the railway village events are perfect for their 3-year-old son Conrad.

“For a young family, the Boothbay Railway Village is the perfect backdrop that provides just enough fall fun without being overwhelming for our toddler,” Tabor Young said. “Nothing says fall like the changing foliage, a hay ride and a country fair.”

One of the vendors who is preparing for the festival is Elyce Reavely, owner of Joey Cat Creations. She said the event is the best and brightest of all the fairs she attends each year.

“The Fall Foliage Festival is the official start to craft fair season for me,” Reavely said.

Hoffman said one of the goals at the festival is to continue to expose people to traditional foods, so there will be a Dutch oven and food cooked over a campfire, and every stream train ride is packed the entire weekend.

“It’s one of the longest running events in Maine, and for most people in this region, it’s the thing that marks the end of the season.” Hoffman said. “It’s what hometown celebrations are all about.”

Hoffman said they want the fair to feel more homey with local vendors that are a reflection of the region. She said they are very Maine-centric events.

The fall and winter events have grown to be some of the biggest events of the year at the railway village, which as an annual operating budget of around $900,000 and five full-time, year-round staffers.

The Boothbay region generally slows down a bit following Labor Day, but Hoffman said the community has changed its business model with all the fall and winter events, including the hugely popular Gardens Aglow at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and the events at the railway village.

During the last weekend in October, the railway village hosts its Ghost Train event in celebration of Halloween. Passengers will journey through enchanted cemeteries, see zombies and other ghastly things, hear the calls of strange beasts and experience other unimaginable apparitions at the normally peaceful village, Hoffman said.

Visitors board the train at the haunted station, where witches and monsters will assist the engineer and train crew. There are two departures during daylight, which Hoffman said was designed to allow young children to attend. The spookier trips happen later in the night when creepy crawlies and sinister spooks travel on the train with the passengers. Children also can trick-or-treat and collect candy from different buildings on the campus.

In December, the North Pole Express and Candlelights & Cocktails on Rails events have become so popular that Hoffman said they’ve added dates and expanded capacity for each.

The North Pole Express features a visit from Santa, but there are a lot of other things happening on the village campus, like holiday story time, hot chocolate and homemade cookies, a holiday-themed model train layout and an ornament making station.

Candlelights & Cocktails features a progressive cocktail party and train ride that includes several stops where guests will try different foods paired with selected cocktails. There will be traditional holiday fare including mulled cider, roasted chestnuts, spiked eggnog and much more.

The village will be simply illuminated and dressed in fresh garlands and greens, and the steam-heated vintage coach will be lit with the glow of oil lamps and lanterns. The village’s antique auto exhibit will be a featured stop on the cocktail tour for the first time. A swing band will perform inside the space, which will be warmed by a bonfire.

“We’ve had to double the capacity for these events because of the demand,” Hoffman said. “It’s a perfect romantic date night.”

Hoffman said events like the North Pole Express and cocktail party are important to keeping the railway village relevant, especially with so many other holiday activities in the Boothbay region, the Midcoast and across the state. The Boothbay Railway Village has been around for 53 years, and Hoffman said they want to be around another 53 years.

Mainers really value their heritage but they mostly share it with people from away, Hoffman said. Going to museums and visiting collections in Maine is important to Maine families because it informs people today about how things used to be done.

“To understand where you are and we’re you’re going, you have to understand how you got there,” she said.

In a way, the Boothbay Railway Village tells Maine’s story, and Hoffman said it’s important that people don’t forget that.

“This is a pretty big deal for us,” she said. “It’s our story.”

If You Go
What: Family Harvest Days
When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 29 and Sunday, Sept. 30
Cost: Free for museum members and included with museum admission for non-members. Admission is $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $7 children 3 to 18 and free for children under 3.

What: Fall Foliage Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 6-8
Cost: Admission is $4. Children 12 and under and museum members are free. Steam train tickets are an additional $5 each,

What: Ghost Train
When: 4:30-8:30 p.m., Oct. 26-27

What: North Pole Express
When: Dec. 8-9, Dec. 15-16, Dec. 22-23
Cost: Standard tickets are $18, First Class $23; Museum members receive $4 discount on standard tickets

What: Candlelight & Cocktails on Rails
When: Dec. 8, Dec. 15 and Dec. 22
Cost: Standard tickets are $30, First Class $35 and include your choice of five cocktails (non-alcoholic options offered at each station.) Museum members receive $5 discount on standard tickets

For more information, call 633-4727 or visit