Old & New Traditions for a Pandemic-Era Autumn

By Meg Walburn Viviano

In a profoundly strange year during which there are almost no constants, one event is guaranteed to happen, no matter what. It’s the changing of the seasons.  

The shift from winter to spring happened in the midst of our state shutting down, on the same week schools closed for what we thought would be a two-week deep cleaning. The shift from spring to summer happened as Maryland entered “Recovery Phase 2,” the very beginning of indoor restaurant operations and limited-capacity shopping. 

This week, summer turned to fall amid expanded indoor dining, the reopening of movie theaters, mask mandates, and no firm plan for a return to in-person school. Half a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, a full return to normalcy is still only a glimmer in the distant future. 

Normalcy or not, autumn is here! The pending arrival of bluer skies, cooling temperatures, and color-changing leaves are a welcome bit of consistency in this topsy-turvy time. Goodbye to the draggy late summer, with its humidity and pesky flies and mosquitoes. Hello to crisp, dry air and light jackets in the morning but short sleeves in the afternoon. 

Of course, we must come to terms with the absence of certain traditions we’ve come to associate with the ushering-in of fall. Time-honored events like the Maryland Renaissance Festival, Navy football tailgates, and the Annapolis Boat Shows are all on hiatus.  

But that certainly won’t stop Chesapeake country from celebrating the arrival of fall. At my house, the little guys look forward to choosing pumpkins to bring home and decorate. At the farm stand on Sunday, my not-quite-5-year-old maneuvered a pumpkin-hauling wagon up and down the aisle, carefully selecting white and orange pumpkins and interestingly-shaped gourds. We paid visits to all the farm’s animal residents, from a loudly honking pair of geese to the draft horses that poked their massive heads out of stalls, hoping for a carrot. 

Visitors wore masks and the mood was cheerful. Even the farmer was good-humored when my two-year-old slipped behind a building, angling for a ride on the Gator farm vehicle. On the way home, the boys shared local apple cider and warm kettle corn. Pandemic or not, we found plenty of autumn spirit to go around. 

This issue of Bay Weekly celebrates that spirit with a special guide. We’ve curated an extensive list of fall experiences that are operating this year with safety measures in place. Some are around the corner; others are a Sunday drive away. 

We’re also sharing a sample of Chesapeake Bay Magazine’s extensive October boating showcase, designed to help boaters (and prospective buyers) fill the gap left by the Annapolis Boat Shows. As you’ll see inside, there are still ways to compare power and sailboat models in person, beginning this weekend. 

We’re here to help you welcome a new season! Be sure to send us your best fall enjoyment photos on Facebook or at [email protected]