The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Tom Lavis

October 9, 2011

Tom Lavis | No beefing about or chickening out of festivals

My favorite time of year is autumn.

With high school football games and changing leaves to tailgate parties and Indian summer, it’s an inviting time to be outdoors.

The only drawback is the marital conflict autumn causes as my wife and I debate how to spend those precious, fleeting moments.

I suggested a compromise.

“If the weather is nice, I will take the boat out on Saturdays to fish, and on Sundays, we can do what you want to do,” I suggested.

Her attitude became as intense as the leaf colors on display throughout the region.

“You had your fishing season from May through September,” she said. “It’s festival season now.”

A day later, a list of various fall festivals was posted on the refrigerator door.

The words “pick four” appeared above a list of festivals within a 100-mile radius along with their corresponding dates.

I did not view this as a threat to my masculinity. After all, the word festival comes from the Latin word feast, which, when translated into English, means “pig out.”

Looking at the list, I saw most of the festivals were associated with areas that had orchards, specialty shops and restaurants.

The leaf-peeping festival has always been a favorite of mine.

As my wife scours scads of craft booths, I slip away to sample delicacies I don’t get at home, such as candied apples, kettle corn, hand-dipped ice cream or apple dumplings.

When I hook up with my wife an hour or two later, I know she has worked up an appetite and will want to sample a hot sausage sandwich.

She also insists on sharing a funnel cake for dessert.

Little does she know that I had been eating as if I had a funnel already in my mouth.

To cover my tracks, I also chose a festival that appeared to be a healthy alternative: A cider festival.

“What could be more wholesome or nutritious than sampling fresh cider being made right in front of you?” I said as I checked the specific box on her list.

“How many times can you look at someone’s collection of antique apple peelers?” she asked.

She apparently didn’t remember that the collector’s booth usually was set up between a gigantic black kettle of boiling apple butter and the old-fashioned apple dumpling stand.

Another ploy I use is my desire to watch a commercial-sized apple peeler in action. This antique is the size of a Chevy V-8 with about the same amount of power.

“But it only peels one apple at a time,” my wife protested.

I reminded her that she gave me four choices.

One choice I made that we equally enjoy is a pumpkin fest.

She enjoys the hayride and always purchases some cornstalks, dried flowers and a scarecrow.

I told her that I would be attending the pumpkin pie-eating contest or the giant pumpkin-hurling catapult.

“What, no corn maze?” she asked.

She was trying to be funny as she recalled my last attempt at negotiating the farm-field labyrinth. I was lost for two hours in a snarl of cornstalks before I latched onto a group of third-graders who were on a field trip.

They made it through the corn puzzle in a matter of minutes.

Upon my exit, I had to calm my nerves by having an apple dumpling.

If we lived closer to the Atlantic Ocean, my next choice would have been a festival associated with lobsters, crabs or other shellfish. But that’s not going to happen because I had refused to attend the Banana Split Festival in Wilmington, Ohio (the birthplace of the split). It was in June and interfered with bass season.

I deferred my other festival choice because I wanted to find the closest festival dedicated to the art of cooking pork, beef or chicken.

“Why can’t we do something cultural like a jazz festival?” she asked.

“What are you talking about?” I said. “A barbecue festival is music to my ears.”

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