October is my favorite month. It always has been. I am grateful for the change in weather, but when I was growing up all the fun stuff happened in October. St. Anne’s Round Up was the ultimate.
For those of you who haven’t lived in Pensacola long enough it was a festival that was held the first weekend in October every year. In the Bellview area, (which felt like really far away from Gulf Breeze) on the grounds of St. Anne’s Catholic church an old western town would emerge with gun fighting outlaws (the blanks were so loud!), exciting can-can dancing (wanted one of those dresses badly), the best Italian Sausage sandwiches, carnival rides, 1800’s costume photo booth (I’m sure all you natives have one stashed somewhere), an awesome haunted house that I went though a dozen times, plenty of games to play, and even a jail that could arrest you at any time; I was once arrested for walking around being too pretty.
My mother loved the festival too because it meant she got to play bingo for hours super cheap! That meant I could walk around freely at the festival taking it all in and just stop by the bingo tent to pick up money when I ran out. I would watch the couples holding hands and wish that I had a boyfriend to walk with. I always said someday when I found someone I would bring him there, and 6 years later I did.
Of course October was and is still time for the Interstate Fair. I don’t go much now, but back then my mother and I had great time together there. I can’t remember the name of the ride, but somehow I always got squished as it got faster and faster. It was set in the ice age I believe and it went in circles increasing speed. I never could remember what side not to sit in. That is the place where my mother and I saw Crystal Gale. There were no words needed. It made our brown and hazel eyes blue with delight.
Then of course there was the real highlight of the month…HALLOWEEN! I used to buy my costume way in advance. I would try it on again and again anticipating the night I would be walking the neighborhood in search of candy. The first Halloween I remember my mother and her boyfriend at the time took me to a haunted house. I was five years old. For a long time there was an empty space at the strip mall in Gulf Breeze that currently has the CVS Pharmacy and many other stores. That year they turned the vacant spot into a haunted house. I couldn’t wait to go. I told everyone at school about it. I entered that building filled to the brim with excitement, I left the building with my mom’s boyfriend carrying me completely frightened. I saw a boy from my school in line on the way out, I remember saying to him, “Don’t go in there!” My mother figured out that night that my older brother was in fact letting me watch Freddy Krueger (when he said he wasn’t) because when Freddy appeared with his glove of blades I had a complete meltdown.
One year my childhood best friend’s Dad, who was a policeman, let us ride in the cop car while we went trick or treating. It doesn’t get any cooler than that! This would also be the time when in music class we would get to sing all the spooky songs about Halloween. I will never get “H-A double L-O, W double E-N spells Halloween!” out of my head. As we sang my music teacher had a haunted house figurine that would blink on and off. The cafeteria usually had someone walking around in a witch’s costume stirring a cauldron with mysterious steaming ingredients. Best part of chemistry class in college was learning that it was dry ice.
I am pretty sure that the book fair was held at the school library in October too. I’ve been a bookworm from the moment I learned to read and it was the one thing my mother couldn’t say no to buying.
Now as an adult I no longer have St. Anne’s Round Up since they cancelled it due to lack of funds, I don’t attend the fair because I don’t trust the operators (or the ancient equipment) of the rides, I’m too old to go trick or treating, but when October rolls around I still get the familiar feeling that a month of fun has arrived. Now it means Honeycrisp apples are back in the produce section, apple cider is in my fridge, I will drink tea outside at my bistro table instead of in the sun room, I will be thinking of designs for my jack-o-lantern, I will start craving butternut squash soup, and I will burn a pumpkin spice candle all month long. We might be leaning into the autumn with its cooler evenings, but what I feel is the warmth of past October days and the ones to come.