Despite fewer hours of sunlight, this is our prime season for hosting outdoors.
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Hayrides and Harvests
Without a doubt, old-fashioned hayrides are a hallmark of every Southerner’s childhood. The harvest season—digging potatoes, the completion of cotton picking—is a time-honored moment of rest, fellowship, and celebration throughout the region. The food at a harvest party is typically simple and rustic, designed to be served family-style and balanced on one knee—think long-simmered beef stew, thick crusty bread, and homemade apple pie for dessert.
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Saturdays are made for college football, and tailgates are time-honored pregame events. Though the weather is typically still hot for these traditional outdoor gatherings, most Southerners consider cool weather a godsend rather than an inconvenience. Keep things simple by offering fun, filling small-bites—sliders, dips, various snacks (sweet and salty) that can be grabbed by the handful—or hearty chili in sturdy mugs. Drinks will cover the usual gamut of beer and a big-batch themed cocktail, but be sure to offer plenty of soft drinks, water, and sweet tea.
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Throw shrimp, sausage, corn, and red potatoes into a big pot over a flame, and you’ve got a reason to have an outdoor party. Pack coolers or galvanized buckets with ice and drinks (or consider serving drinks in found items—canoes and old wheelbarrows work well, too!), and allow your guests to serve themselves. Classic Lowcountry boils are usually held early through late autumn, in an open outdoor area or beneath a tent. Be sure to provide various grouped seating areas for your guests; think beyond the basic folding chairs to seating options like logs, hay bails, and soft quilts or blankets.
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Indian summers can last for a while down south, and the warmth of late October is perfect for indoor/outdoor Halloween events. Deck the outside of your house with spooky décor—go with reusable classics like carved gourds, spooky scarecrows, and fake cobwebs. Halloween celebrations are also the perfect time to bring out old-school outdoor games; Apple bobbing, horseshoe throws, and beanbag tosses are always favorites among kids (especially if there’s candy prizes involved).
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Even in November and December, evenings are temperate enough to take the party outside, particularly to a cozy screened porch or a twinkle light-covered deck. To make this work for your shindig, create designated outdoor gathering spots with the help of a few well-placed exterior heaters, along with collections of chunky throw blankets and soft shawls. As the evening progresses (and the temperature drops) invite guests inside to serve dessert, coffee, or after-dinner drinks.