As much as the staff of Evansville Living hates to see summer go, the recent hot and humid weather has us longing for the fall. Fortunately, the autumn equinox occurs Sept. 22, and we’ve been thumbing through past autumn issues of Evansville Living while we impatiently wait. When we picked up the September/October 2004 issue, we were immediately reminded of the vibrant colors of autumn Chrysanthemums, the crispness of the air, and the electricity of high school football games. We pulled our 2004 love letter to autumn out of the archive and gave it a 2021 update, because while events may have changed, the best things about fall remain.
The Colors of Autumn
Signs of autumn line the roadway with brilliant colors of red, orange, and yellow, making a start statement against the sky. Imagine this as the perfect day to take a fall drive where you can go anywhere in the Tri-State. What route would you take? Beginning in Dale, Indiana, journey through Lincoln State Park for not only its natural beauty but its historical significance, as well. A gaunt down Newburgh Road will take you through soft curves lined with trees dressed in their autumn hues. Browning Road in McCutchanville gives a similar effect as you coast in awe along Lake Talahi, one of Vanderburgh County’s largest lakes. Harmonie State Park on the banks of the Wabash River offers breathtaking natural sights as you pass through this utopian community with its charming, austere quality. Hop over the Ohio River and visit John James Audubon State Park; it’s the perfect place to stop for a picnic and view wildlife. A tour through the eastern hills of Shawnee National Forest in southeastern Illinois and its natural wonder, Garden of the Gods, is worth the drive. Maple, oak, dogwood, and pine decorate the steep, rocky cliffs. A quick climb to Camel Rock or Devil’s Smokestack may leave you feeling lightheaded because of its spectacular scenery and sea of autumn shades.
Friday Night Football
Polish up your “That’s My Boy” button because fall officially arrives with the start of Friday night high school football. Students, cheerleaders, band members, and proud parents are out in full force, creating that cacophony of sound and movement that can only mean game time. With all the excitement, it may be hard to concentrate on the plays; however, most high school students will agree, the true mastery of a Friday game is managing to socialize and snack at the concession stand while still supporting the home team. Check out the towering bleachers of the Reitz Bowl, built into Reitz Hill, or join the kids wrapped in fleece blankets in the brick enclosure that is Enlow Field, home to both the Bosse Bulldogs and Reitz Memorial Tigers. With all the rivalries that crisscross the area, games are sure to be exciting.
The Maze at Mayse
With a name like Mayse, these people were destined to create some of the most intricate corn mazes in the Midwest. Every weekend from Sept. 25 to Oct. 31, families are welcome to find their way in and out of the corn maze at Mayse Farm Market at 6400 N. St. Joseph Ave. Round out your “Family Fun on the Farm” day with wagon and hayrides, picking pumpkins, and sampling homemade fudge and kettle corn. Admission is $10 for adults and children, with kids under 2 years old admitted for free. Groups of 15 or more people, military personnel, and church, business, nonprofit, and corporate groups can receive discounted tickets. Looking for more options? Don’t miss this year’s corn maze at Lyles Station, west of Princeton, Indiana. Every Friday-Sunday this October, enjoy a nine-acre corn maze, pumpkin patch, hayrides, campfires, and food, as well as Lyles Station’s authentic pioneer settlement.
Fall Festival Flavors
Alligator gumbo and chocolate-covered crickets — an exotic menu you would expect to find in a foreign land. But the first full week of October (Oct. 4-9 this year) brings such delicacies and other traditional treats to Evansville during the West Side Nut Club’s Fall Festival. Known as one of the largest street festivals in the country, the Fall Festival kicks off the season with more than 100 food booths lining both sides of West Franklin Street from St. Joseph to Wabash avenues. When the Evansville community isn’t munching on elephant ears and corn dogs, they’re taking their turn on carnival rides and games or entertaining the crowd during the karaoke competition. Perhaps the best part about the festival is its generous spirit with all the proceeds donated back to the community, making autumn even more festive in our city.
Tricks or Treats
Halloween’s signature moment may be the sight of costumed tykes lugging pillowcases of candy, but Oct. 31 is just the climax of local Halloween fun. Friedman Park in Newburgh, Indiana, is getting into the spooky spirit with its second annual Halloween in the Park on Oct. 23. Food trucks, live entertainment, costume contests, trick-or-treating, and more are on the lineup. The $5 per-car entrance fee benefits the Warrick Parks Foundation. Washington Square Mall is hosting a free, costume-optional Twist or Treat 2.0 drive-thru on Oct. 30. This family-friendly event benefits VOICES, Inc., a Vanderburgh Country nonprofit advocating for nursing home residents’ rights and quality of care. Over in Owensboro, Kentucky, Cork & Cuisine’s fifth annual “Happy HalloWine” is Oct. 29 at the Owensboro Convention Center and features a spooktacular evening of games, prizes, costume contest, Halloween-themed five-course dinner, and specialty drinks. And don’t forget about Evansville’s signature ghost — the Grey Lady — while you browse books at Willard Library.
Pick of the Season
If the fresh fruits of summer have left you craving more, don’t worry — you can still get refreshing fruit right from the tree. Evansville Countryside Orchard located at 16800 Petersburg Road is open seasonally for apple picking and remains open through the first part of November. Load the kids in the car and head out to the orchard to collect up to eight different varieties of apples, including Golden and Red Delicious, Fuji, and Granny Smith.
Get Active for a Good Cause
As brisk fall air replaces the stifling humidity, runners and bikers are breathing deep again and stretching their legs on a variety of sponsored races throughout Evansville. Those motivated by watching summer Olympic runners conquer the 26.2-mile marathon can live half the glory with Evansville’s Half Marathon on Oct. 2. Olympic hopefuls and neighborhood strollers alike can enjoy getting exercise on the course that begins and ends in Downtown Evansville and passes through Garvin Park, Bayard Park, Main Street, and historic neighborhoods. If just hearing the word “marathon” makes your calves ache, then perhaps the Komen Race for the Cure 5K Run/Walk and the Family Run Run/Walk are a safer bet. Wear your pink ribbon and help support breast cancer research on Sept. 26 for this year’s virtual event. If your set of wheels is a bicycle, the annual Great Pumpkin Metric Bicycle Tour is right up your alley. Save the date for Oct. 3 to tour Southern Indiana scenery for 15.5, 31, or 65 miles.
Falling for Mums
A Chinese philosopher once said, “If you would be happy for a lifetime, grow Chrysanthemums.” The Tri-State is in tune with that philosophy, especially during the fall, when flowerbeds overflow with mums wrapped in the colors of the season. For many, the first memory of the flower may have been of corsages worn by loved ones at a local homecoming football game. Mums have been crowned the “queen of fall flowers” ranging in various shades of red, yellow, pink, purple, bronze, white, and orange. Southern Indiana’s optimal climate is to thank for these beautiful blooms. Mums can be found for sale around Evansville usually through early November.
Fall colors photo by Nino G. Cocchiarella. Fall Festival photo by Daniel R. Patmore. Football photo provided by Mater Dei Journalism Department. Jack-o-lantern photo by Daniel R. Patmore. Mayse Corn Maze — Photo provided by Mayse Farm Market. Orchard photo by Audra Straw. Mums photo by Fred Reaves/Image One. Pumpkin Race photo by Keith Meyer. September/October 2004 cover image by Fred Reaves/Image One.