— William McKendree Carleton
American Poet (1845-1912)
Everybody has a favorite season.
Mine is autumn.
Some favor the sandy beaches, golden tans and long days of summer; or the warm promise, soft breezes and new growth of spring; or the holiday-spirited hot cocoa and snowball fights of cold winters.
Give me the earthy aromas of fall, the spiraling leaves, the rainbow horizons and the invigoratingly crisp air — gifts of Mother Nature made all the more special by their unique combination that graces our land but once a year. I’ve always considered the months of October and November as personal friends.
Leaves piled high atop browning blades of grass. Lawnmowers finally getting a rest save their periodic emergence from tool sheds for an afternoon of mulching. Walks along winding wooded trails. Bouncing temperatures almost too cool for shorts yet too warm for sweaters. Smoky scents from a distant pile of burning leaves that tickle the fancy, tease the nose and titillate the imagination. Backyard campfires. Bales of straw. Toasted marshmallows.
Autumn stirs the senses and opens the mind.
It stretches the vision and broadens our thoughts of places near, dear and true to our hearts.
It energizes, mesmerizes and tranquilizes.
It grants us pause for thoughts of elsewhere — past, present and future.
It makes us want to go places, do things and bask in the company of those we love.
In October, my mind travels.
And then do I.
Red Clay State Historic Area.
And the festivals? When my wife takes me by the hand to say “Let’s go,” I don’t bother with the traditional “Yes dear.” Instead, I respond with, “When do we leave?”
We always start with the local festivals.
Sometimes we opt for Prater’s Mill in north Georgia. Other times we take the short road trip to the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Show. We’ve also done the Elijay Apple Festival and a few others to our west.
On the local side, we’ve visited Cleveland’s own downtown Apple Festival and always enjoy it.
But the one that always gets us off the couch and away from the yard work is the Nillie Bipper Creative Arts Festival. This year the local salute to the season of the harvest is celebrating its 43rd year. If you haven’t marked your calendar, Nillie Bipper is this weekend — Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Tri-State Exhibition Center down on the southern end of the bypass just beyond the Interstate 75 interchange.
I haven’t attended them all, but I’ve always loved the experience when I do get to visit. Admittedly, I liked the atmosphere a little more when it was held down at Red Clay State Historic Area, but weather on occasion liked to rear its frustrating little head. Moving it to Tri-State removed Mother Nature’s temperament from the equation. Besides, the Exhibition Center is open-sided so you still get to feel the autumn breeze.
Ironically enough, the Nillie Bipper festivals I remember the most are those when the October temperatures were a little cooler than normal, a stream of puffy white clouds would keep the sun filtered and my internal thermostat couldn’t decide if I was too cold or too hot; hence, the odd clothing combo of pullover sweater and shorts. That’s OK. It always made the popcorn or roasted peanuts or hot cup of coffee taste even better.
I’ve loved the Nillie Bipper Festival since my early days in Cleveland and in the 1970s or ’80s I interviewed the show’s namesake — Billie Nipper. What a special lady and what a tremendous talent. I don’t guess I’ve talked to her in 20 years or more. These days she wouldn’t know me from Adam.
But that’s OK. Age happens.
Regardless folks, it’s autumn — a season for the ageless.
And that’s all that really matters in October.
Hope to see you at the festival.
If you run into Billie before I do, tell her Adam said hello.