Beyond the pumpkin patch

Oct. 26, 2008, midnight | By Susie Branson | 13 years, 1 month ago

Blazers reveal their favorite fall traditions

Reds, oranges and yellows blur before the eyes of juniors Adam Hallberlin and Justin Rattey as they leap through the air. Plunging into their first annual pile of leaves for the autumn season, smells of dirt, grass and sweat engulf their senses. Even though their arms ache and their hands are covered with new calluses from raking all day, the corners of their mouths curve into a smile as they both think the same thing: it's fall again!

As various autumn festivities begin, Blazers are grabbing their pals and venturing out to participate in various traditional activities. Whether these customary autumn gatherings are centered around organizations or holidays, students of all ages and backgrounds create irreplaceable memories while enjoying their favorite fall traditions.

Autumn activities

For seniors Blake Loftus, Timothy Prue, Jr., and David Burnett, fall means one thing: football season. Avid Redskins fans, the three boys have piled into Loftus's car each year since tenth grade to head to a season kickoff game. Although they often find themselves in the nosebleed section, they manage to indulge in the spirit of the game. "I just love eating all of the hot dogs and nachos we can fit," Prue says. "And the cheerleaders aren't so bad either."

All seniors on Blair's varsity football team, the boys also make sure to watch the game for pointers between their frequent soda runs. "It's just a fun tradition we've kept up with throughout high school," Loftus explains, "and it's something to look forward to amongst all the craziness that comes with the beginning of school and football practices."

Football players aren't the only students who use their fall traditions to escape some of the pressures of school. Blair's cheerleading squad makes a trip up to Markoff's Haunted Forest, located in Dickerson, Md., every year. Popular amongst many Blair students, Markoff's Haunted Forest is a festively spooked forest with haunted trails, hayrides, bonfires and fortune tellers. "Markoff's Haunted Forest is honestly one of my favorite Halloween activities I look forward to all year," senior captain Jessica Arce says. "It's a fun way to get a group of friends screaming at the tops of their lungs!"

Photo: From left: juniors Lucy Barr, Emmett Cummings and Cristina Muñoz-Pandya enjoy the Renaissance Festival. Picture courtesy of Lucy Barr.

Another favorite fall event within the D.C. metropolitan area, the Renaissance Festival, takes Blazers back to the swashbuckling, turkey-leg-eating, medieval carousing. Junior Lucy Barr makes a special trip every year with friends juniors Emmett Cummings and Cristina Muñoz-Pandya, who treat themselves to various foods and activities within the festive fair. Barr, Cummings and Muñoz-Pandya have been attending this themed event since elementary school and claim it's a great way to maintain their friendship because it allows them to all catch up between taking part in all of the fun activities. The Renaissance Festival has something for everyone, from elephant rides to jousting, but Barr claims the hypnotist is by far her favorite. "The only thing they can tell me for sure is that I'll be back next year!" Barr laughs.

Sophomores Sofia Read and Saleiha Mayer-Marks share this same enthusiastic dedication to their favorite fall tradition: visiting Butler's Orchard in Germantown each year since the beginning of middle school. Participating in pumpkin picking, apple picking, corn mazes and hayrides, both girls always return home with a bundle of goods. Although snacking on freshly-dipped caramel apples may be the girls' favorite treat at the farm, it is the fun memories that motivate them to return each year. "I can't imagine not coming back to Butler's every year," Read says. "We've been doing it for so long, I don't know where else I would be able to find a better pumpkin!"

"Thrill"-ing traditions

Although driving out to a uniquely festive place is a popular treat, other Blazers keep the fun traditions alive at home as well. Juniors Nellie Garlow, Emily Hedrick and Jill Lidsky have carved their pumpkins together for as long as they can remember. Every year, these three girls get together the week before Halloween and carve out scary and goofy faces on their pumpkins just in time to light them up for the big night. Jamming to classic holiday tunes like Michael Jackson's "Thriller," these Blazers call on their parents to come and grade each jack-o-lantern, awarding different titles to each of the pumpkins. "It's always funny to see what goofy stuff we can manage to come up with," Garlow says. The girls then spend the rest of the evening drying out the pumpkin seeds and making pumpkin pie to snack on for the rest of the week. "It definitively combines the best of all worlds: art, tunes and sweets!" Hendrick concludes.

Although most traditional fall activities are just for fun, Hallberlin and Rattey look at autumn in a different way: money. Calling themselves the "Phantom Rakers," these two entrepreneurs spend their free afternoons collecting as many leaves from yards as possible to raise some spending money as well as attempting to create the biggest leaf pile in the neighborhood. Dumping all of the leaves in a nearby park so other children can have fun in their pile, Hallberlin and Rattey both agree that their work is a win-win situation for both them and the community. "Although the money is nice, it's really about the tradition of doing this every year," Hallberlin says.

As Rattey and Hallberlin struggle to climb out of their towering pile, they stretch and yawn as the sun starts to sink and the air cools down. Like many other Blazers who escape the stresses of school through their favorite autumn rituals, the two boys drop right back into their leafy haven of festive fall fun.

Susie Branson. Key facts of Susie Branson: she's a junior in CAP, her favorite food is peanut butter, she plays soccer and lacrosse, she can't stand talking on the phone, loves country music, and her favorite ice cream is Phish Food. She is way too competitive for … More »

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