Fall is my favorite season. There's just something about the cool, crisp air after months of oppressive heat, the fleeting beauty of the changing leaves, and the imperative to enjoy the last remaining days of warmth and sunshine that comes with the knowledge that winter is right around the corner that captures my imagination. Of course, it doesn't hurt that there's been a little something extra developing in my life the past few weeks to make the passage of my favorite time of year just a bit sweeter -- I've got a new man in my life!
His name is Justin, we met online a few weeks ago, and things have been going swimmingly ever since. We've been seeing quite a bit of each other lately (which is part of the reason why my posting has dwindled recently), and I'm feeling great about how things are unfolding between us. I think it's safe to say that we're both quite smitten...
This weekend, we decided to make a day out of seasonal activities, starting off at Richardson Farms, home of what they bill as the "World's Largest Corn Maze." I love a good corn maze, and had enjoyed Richardson Farms when I visited last year with Katherine, so I dragged Justin out to Antioch, Illinois for his first maze experience. This year's theme was the 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, and I'm not sure if it was my imagination, but it seemed much more difficult this year than last year. I think Justin and I found less than half of the 25 checkpoints included in the maze to help aid in navigation. Most of the time, we wandered around with little sense of where we were. Nevertheless, the sound of the wind in the dry corn husks was quite pleasant, and the rain held off long enough for us to enjoy some quality outdoor time. Besides, as I joked to Justin, the couple that gets lost together stays together -- because they have nowhere else to go!
After the maze, we headed to the beach to kill some time until dusk, when we would head to the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival. That's how unseasonably warm it was this weekend: we were able to hang out at the beach watching the water at the end of October without freezing our buns off. When the sun finally started to dip toward the horizon, we drove up to Highwood, and spent ages driving around the already parking-challenged hamlet until we found a spot that was barely even in town it was so far away.
The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival is a relatively new event, as it was only in its second year this weekend. The town is determined to break the world record (currently held by the much larger city of Boston) for the most amount of lit jack-o-lanterns in one place. To beat Boston, they needed 32,000 jack-0-lanterns, and while they didn't make it this year (they made it as far as 26,000), the vast quantities of carved gourds were still extremely impressive.
Most of the pumpkins were housed on giant scaffolds that were between one and two stories tall. They were carved by locals who had either brought their pumpkins from home, or who had brought their own tools and purchased a pumpkin at the festival site to carve. Frankly, I was a little worried about combining such a large crowd with so many sharp implements, but I guess that's the difference between a festival in the suburbs and a festival in the city.
I was also surprised to see the festival volunteers lighting the pumpkins with actual candles. Apparently, they had to use actual candles to be eligible to break the record, but 26,000 candles inside of 26,000 flammable containers seemed like an exceedingly dangerous enterprise to me. If I'd been on the planning committee, and it would have met eligibility requirements, I would have used electric lights instead.
All in all, it was a perfect autumn day, even with the intermittent rain. I got to spend time with my new beau, taking in a variety of seasonal entertainments and forging new memories of shared experiences. Hopefully, this is just one in a long line of perfect days in store for us...