Janet here. Each season of the year is unique, packed with delights and challenges, but fall is hands down my favorite time of the year. The beauty of the trees as they don hues of gold, orange and red, the cooler nights, the demise of humidity that makes taking a brisk walk a joy. Perhaps I cherish each glorious fall day more because I know winter is approaching and time outdoors will soon be limited.
Several years ago, my love of fall took a hit. Hay fever brought itchy eyes, ears and throat, a dripping nose and no energy. Anyone identify? But thanks to allergy shots and meds, I’m symptom free. And fall is again #1.
One of the highlights of fall for me is attending festivals. It’s the perfect time to munch kettle corn, crunch gooey caramel apples or savor funnel cakes dusted with powdered sugar. Pumpkins, cider, apples, Indian corn and gourds are in abundance, along with craft booths to peruse, friends to greet. What’s not to like?
Well, one negative does come to mind: yellow jackets, a member of the wasp family. Before I wrote this post, I thought yellow jackets suddenly turned mean in the fall. But I discovered that in late summer workers begin to fancy sugar over meat and seek ripe, decaying fruit or human garbage, sodas, which explains why yellow jackets are a menace at fall picnics. Their stings hurt, can even be dangerous. But I will no longer take their aggression personally.
What do fall festivals have to do with writing? Festivals are great places to people watch and feed your creative self way more than junk food. Story ideas, characterization, description and setting, a slice of nostalgia, even nuggets of history awaits you. So you might want to haul yourself away from the keyboard one Saturday and explore a festival near you.
I love history so it's not surprising that my favorite area festival is the Johnny Appleseed Festival held not far from his graveside and a celebration of the era in which he lived. Dressed in period clothes, venders sell wares of the times. Enactors protray life in pre-1840s, living in tents, cooking and keeping warm with campfires, using candles for light at night. I haven’t attended in recent years since it’s held the same weekend as the ACFW conference. But I have pleasant memories of meandering through the crowds, looking at antiques, watching demonstrators make their crafts, buying produce, eating fare I never would indulge in any other time.
For those who know little about the man, Johnny Appleseed’s real name was John Chapman. Born September 26, 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts, he lived on a small farm, loved apples and his father's apple orchard. Settlers traveling west told John of fertile soil on the frontier, creating in him a desire to plant apple seeds. In 1792, 18-year-old Chapman headed west. Cider presses in Pennsylvania gave him apple seeds for free since more apple trees meant more business for them. John then traveled to the Ohio River valley, planting apple seeds along the way. In Ohio, he tended 1,200 acres of his own nurseries, building fences around his saplings to protect them from animals. He left them in the care of a neighbor who sold the trees then moved on, selling or giving away thousands of apple seedlings to pioneers in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois.
As he traveled from house to house, he told stories to children and spread the Swedenborgian gospel to adults, sleeping on floors and sometimes receiving supper. He made several trips back east to visit his sister and replenish his supply of Swedenborgian literature. A couple times a year, he'd visit his orchards in Ohio and collected his earnings. Unable to harm animals, he was a vegetarian. He never married, apparently a victim of a broken heart. He died of pneumonia in 1845 near Fort Wayne, Indiana. His generous nature, commitment to the gospel he preached, kinship with Indians and the wilderness, and his peculiar appearance (He was reported to have worn a shirt made from a coffee sack and a mush pan for a hat) made John Chapman a legend in his lifetime.
Wouldn’t he make an interesting secondary character?
In honor of John Chapman, I brought apple dumplings, donuts and cider for breakfast. Dig in and don’t worry. No yellow jackets allowed.
I’m giving away a copy of The Substitute Bride. Compared to Elizabeth’s’ life in Chicago, New Harmony, Iowa in 1899 was the frontier. And this mail-order bride was most definitely a pioneer! For a chance to win a copy of The Substitute Bride, share your favorite season or festival or perhaps you have a harrowing tale of yellow jackets to tell.
Though I’ll be missing the Johnny Appleseed Festival, I’ll soon be seeing Seekers at the ACFW conference in Indianapolis! Hopefully I’ll get to see many of you! Who's coming???