Jackie O’Lantern is the official ambassador for autumn on the First Coast and beyond. With the first day of fall less than a week away — landing this year on Wednesday, Sept. 23 — O’Lantern is especially busy preparing for the launch of the season.
While many people look forward to the return of football, pumpkin spice lattes and cooler weather, O’Lantern says that her favorite part of the season has more to do with the ways that the community comes together, especially locally.
“Neighbors are all home from vacation and spending more time outside,” O’Lantern said. “People just see more of each other in the fall!”
What do you look forward to most during the fall in Ponte Vedra Beach?
Halloween is an easy one! Who doesn’t love Halloween candy and seeing all the neighborhood kids in their costumes? The time leading into Halloween is fun too. Fresh Market starts to stock all of their exotic pumpkins, and local pumpkin patches pop up.
Do you have a favorite local patch?
I stick with the classics: the Lord of Life Lutheran Church on Roscoe Blvd. has been running a patch for 16 years! This year it opens on Monday., Oct. 12 — and it draws people from all over the area and into Jacksonville.
The patch is open from 2 p.m. until dusk on weekdays, 9 a.m. to dusk on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to dusk.
Why is it your favorite?
Well, part of it is how long they’ve been doing it. You’ve got to respect tradition!
But they care a lot about the pumpkins, too, which is obviously near and dear to my heart.
Volunteers go into the patch every two days and they gently roll the pumpkins to keep them in tip top shape for carving!
Any other fun traditions at the patch?
Definitely! They’re going to hold a weekend of family fun days on Oct. 17 and 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 o’clock. It’ll have bounce houses, crafts, face painting and food. Plus some fun for adults, too, like raffles for golf and wine baskets. All the proceeds will go to charity.
Are there any traditions surrounding the first day of fall?
Sure, people around the world celebrate the arrival of autumn. In Japan, during the week around the first day of fall, people visit the graves of their ancestors and family to leave flowers and meditate on their relatives. There is also Michaelmas, which usually comes near the first day of fall. It’s the Catholic feast day for the Archangel Michael.
For most families, it’s just a great time to kick off fall traditions. And it’s an awesome time to live in Ponte Vedra — as if there’s a ever a bad time to live here, am I right?
How do you feel about Christmas decorations in stores at the same time as fall decorations?
Ugh – don’t get me started! Every year, Old Man Winter’s decorations creep into my time to shine earlier and earlier. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jack Frost is a really good friend of mine, we kind of have to be being neighbors on the holiday calendar and all, but come on – fall and winter are two separate seasons, let’s keep them that way, shall we?
Do you throw an annual Halloween party?
Yes, I don’t want to brag, but I throw an amazing Halloween party every year! It’s a tradition. My guest list includes Walter Wisenhower a.k.a the Abercrombie Zombie (your paper did a One of Us feature on him a few years ago). He’s a good buddy, and so is Frank N. Stein, Sam Witch, Scare D. Cat and Grue Some. We have a HOWL-ing good time!