Every year we host a big fall party on a late-evening Saturday in October that includes a hayride, a bonfire, some friendly games of volleyball under the stars and my Hayride Chili. We usually have about forty - fifty guests of all ages ... family, friends, co-workers and lots of our children's friends from school. It is always tons of fun.
We all have those special traditions that we remember from our own childhoods. Our yearly fall party is one of those traditions that I know our children will treasure for years to come!
Since we live in Michigan, we try to do it early enough in October to usually ensure that the nighttime weather hasn't yet turned too cold. But, it's usually just nippy enough to be able to enjoy sitting by the fire as the night's festivities wind down.
Everyone looks forward to our Hayride Chili. Shredded beef takes the place of traditional ground beef and I'll let ya in on a little secret ... there is some chocolate in the chili! We serve it with corn chips, shredded cheese, diced onions and sour cream. Many guests look forward to this chili all year long.
We always have guests arrive at dusk so that by the time we all get loaded on the hay wagon, darkness is setting in. We have tons of acres (mostly woods and fields) to drive through. We hang lit plastic ghosts in the trees along the paths in advance and sometimes we have some adults hiding in the woods to jump out and give a little scare to the younger ones. My husband and his brother often tell "ghost" stories about the property we drive through on the hayride (they grew up on this very land). We all snuggle together on the hay bales. It is one of my children's most-favorite evenings of the year!
As we arrive back to our home and with the bonfire all aglow, everyone gathers around the tables set up outdoors to dive into the chili. We have hot dogs for roasting and marshmallows for toasting (wait - that last part sounded a little "Christmas-y"). All of the adults sit around the fire ... getting up only to take turns filling in for positions on the volleyball court.
We laugh. We tell stories. The kids bring out a radio and have a little dance party. They play "Kick the Can" and dare each other to run into the woods with no flashlight.
We spend the week before the party digging out our fall and Halloween decorations, then go to work putting it all up indoors and outside. We gather cornstalks from a field and place them in bunches all over the party site. The yard is lit with tiki torches and Halloween lights.
There isn't a place I'd rather be on that night other than right there with friends and family we love and cherish!