Oh September, that magical time of year where it is equal parts unbearably hot and seemingly eternally overcast (with a chance of storms). Summer has not quite ceded its seasonal dominion, and yet, most people can't help getting antsy and preparing to embrace fall with open arms.
Count me among those ready for the seasonal shift and all that comes with it. While that won't officially happen for another week, now seems like an apt time to feed into that anticipation and list off the top reasons to get excited for fall.
If it's not been made clear by now, it makes me very happy when football returns from hiatus no matter whether the games are being played on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays.
One week into the NFL season and we've already had wild offensive shootouts, a Jets (?) blowout win, a Browns tie (?) against the Steelers (?!?), a nearly identical rematch of one of last year's NFC divisional round playoff thrillers and Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers leading an on-brand comeback effort against Chicago in the first Sunday showcase of the fall.
Beyond that, my alma mater, the University of Kansas, has managed to rekindle my optimism once again as this past weekend the Jayhawk football team broke a road winless streak that had been intact for almost a decade, picking up a victory at Central Michigan. Now, they're favored at home against a Power 5 conference opponent (granted, it's Rutgers) — equally as rare as their most recent feat. Don't worry though K-State fans, I'm 99.9 percent sure the Wildcats will still end the season with a better overall record, even with their early struggles.
Then, there's the prep level, where only one high school team in Harvey County has a losing record as of the time this column is being written. Newton was sniffing a 2-0 start in a close loss to Campus, while Halstead ran into a buzzsaw in Pratt's Travis Theis (a challenge Hesston had to try to contain Friday) — and there's still plenty of primetime match-ups that remain.
Halstead and Hesston start competition in a new look district this coming week, and the teams will face each other with playoff implications on the line in a rivalry game Sept. 28. Newton has its own rivalry clash at Maize coming up on Friday, while Sept. 21 has been circled on the calendar since the start of the season for this writer to witness what should be a stellar rematch of a 2A regional game from last year when the Cardinals of Sedgwick and Ell-Saline clash. Sedgwick quarterback Hooper Schroeder is doing plenty to make the Cardinals a must-watch team regardless of their opponent, racking up nearly 1,000 passing yards through just two games.
2) Spicing things up
Perhaps the true harbinger of fall is the return of the PSL. If you don't immediately recognize that shorthand, consider yourself lucky. You clearly do not know an addict — excuse me, I mean fan(atic) — of pumpkin spice lattes. "PSL" season runs almost concurrently with fall, and ushers in a number of pumpkin spice-flavored food items.
I have no qualms with PSL and its disciples partaking of this seasonal staple while it is around — though there are plenty of other seasonal beverages (i.e. apple cider, hot chocolate, etc.) to be enjoyed as well.
What I consider to be the true season-ing of fall, though, is chili powder — and I welcome the opportunity to savor multiple bowls of chili at the festivals that are so prevalent this time of year.
Harvey County's own chili fest will be coming up in a couple of weeks and I look forward to trying the numerous varieties that will be offered. From what I hear, there may even be some exotic recipes entered in this year's competition (venison chili, anyone?).
3) Holiday festivities
Of course, there are a couple of big dates to mark on your calendar once fall officially arrives, as two major holidays — Halloween and Thanksgiving — are celebrated during the season.
To be fair, Thanksgiving does combine two of my reasons to get excited about fall — seasonal food items and football — in one day, so it's hard to NOT get excited. Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, pumpkin and/or pecan pie, that right there is fall on a plate.
While I have never been one to go all out for Halloween, I can appreciate the sentiment — and the seasonal activities that come along with it. From hay bale rides to corn mazes, there are a lot of good ideas in there that just work in the cool, fall weather. Last year, I got the chance to be one of the first recruits for the Kansas Zombie Hunters — and I plan to help out the cause once again this season.
Personally, the temperature drops are usually enough to get me ready for fall; the items listed above are just gravy (usually of the turkey variety). Add in the numerous fall festivals and craft fairs, and it's clear there is a true cornucopia of reasons to get excited about the return of fall.
— Kelly Breckunitch is a general assignment/county reporter for The Kansan. He can be reached at email@example.com.