If I may borrow a phrase from the late Andy Williams, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
I’m definitely a big fan of Christmas, for which those lyrics were intended.
But when it comes to the four seasons here in my native Wisconsin, nothing compares to the most wonderful time of the year — fall.
Technically, fall doesn’t start until later this week with the equinox on Sept. 22. For me, though, fall begins when the calendar flips to September.
Gone are the oppressive heat and humidity of summer (for the most part). Even further in the rear-view mirror is spring (the flowers are nice, but they’re still a harbinger of the heat and humidity that awaits). And the finger-numbing, ice-scraping wasteland of winter isn’t on the radar screen quite yet.
Much like “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” fall is the perfect balance — not too hot and not too cold. The crisp autumn air invigorates me.
And how can anyone not enjoy the fall colors — the reds, oranges, yellows and array of related hues. Mother Nature’s paintbrush brightens up any day. Many times I’ve hopped in my car for no reason other than to drive through the countryside, taking in the spectacular fall colors.
Other times I’ve driven around to visit one of the many festivals that make fall so enjoyable. Add the word “fest” at the end of an event and chances are it’ll be worth a trip this time of year. Apple Fest. Harvest Fest. Pumpkin Fest. Fall Fest. Cranberry Fest. Autumn Fest. October Fest. At each you’ll experience smiling faces, tasty treats and the familiar rustle of leaves blown across the ground by the fall breeze.
I’m a little too old for diving into leaf piles these days, but the temptation remains. Watching children playing in the leaves reminds me of my childhood doing the same thing with my younger brothers and friends in Neenah.
Perhaps it was a bit strange but I actually enjoyed school as a youngster, so fall meant a much-anticipated return to the classroom. Now I appreciate fall for a different school-related reason: With students back at their desks it’s a bit easier to go shopping or do any number of things during the daytime.
Fall also hosts my next two favorite holidays (after Christmas).
I’ll gladly buy bags of candy for Halloween trick-or-treaters (and I won’t hesitate to snack on the leftovers). And when a TV station broadcasts the classic “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” you can bet I’ll carve out a few minutes to see Linus sitting in that pumpkin patch.
Not to be outdone, there’s nothing like a Thanksgiving meal of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie with family members in November. Halloween and Thanksgiving provide a fantastic one-two fall punch that Muhammad Ali could only dream about.
And, of course, fall is home to harvest season. Rest assured, I’ll be joining the thousands of people across Wisconsin who venture out to pick apples, gather gourds and search for that perfect pumpkin.
So, it should come as no surprise that fall truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Benjamin Wideman covers eastern Wisconsin for The Country Today. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.