How to Host a Fall Tailgate Like a Southerner
Crisp air, changing leaves, and football games start the buzz around Franklin: "We've got to get out to Gentry's." Fall has finally arrived.
I made my first trip to the 400-acre farm when I was in first grade. I remember swinging on a tire that hung from the massive oak tree beside the old barn, and now I watch my daughters (Emmaline, 4, and Joey Kate, 1) play in that exact spot. The property has been in the Gentry family since 1848, but nearly 30 years ago, they opened their gates to the community, offering summer day camps; educational programs for school groups; and a fall harvest celebration with pick-your-own pumpkins, hayrides, corn mazes, and friendly farm animals—like Elvis the goat.
Maybe it's the simple act of disconnecting and getting my hands dirty, but returning to the farm each year takes me back in time—to the way things used to be. This land's roots run deep, and as our small town of Franklin continues to grow, it only takes one fall Saturday in a pumpkin patch to make us all feel like kids again.
Celebrate Local Favorites
Cindy and Allen Gentry run the farm with their son Jase. "When we opened to the public almost 30 years ago, we hoped visiting would become an annual tradition for families in the Franklin area. We have not been disappointed," says Cindy. Visit Gentry's Farm this fall, Saturday through Monday, starting September 28.
Designate a Home Base
I like to park right next to the pumpkin field, set up a buffet on the tailgate, and spread out a large blanket on the grass so everyone can come and go between noshing and tromping through the patch. When planning a get-together on a public property, it's key to have a place to meet; drop belongings; and gather for food, drinks, and plenty of photos.
Make It a Tradition
We pick a date and invite friends to meet us at Gentry's for pumpkin picking and tailgating. My family piles into our 1985 Jeep Grand Wagoneer with tartan thermoses, handmade quilts, and picnic baskets. We even bring a canoe along in case anyone wants to paddle on the Harpeth River, which runs alongside Gentry's Farm.
(Vintage canoe: The Barn Door Co.)
Picnic Like a Pro
Smart moves for effortless outdoor entertaining
Pack like you party.
Think beyond the basket: A tote bag or wagon does the trick. Keep perishables in a cooler, and seal food in jars to prevent spills.
Take the essentials.
Don't forget plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes, ice and a bottle opener for drinks, and trash bags for cleanup.
Cut down on waste.
Linen napkins will make lunch feel more festive, and they're better for the environment.
Let the Season Shine
Master the Mix
Satisfy cravings with a sweet, salty snack: Fill waffle cones with a combination of cereal squares, pretzels, cheese crackers, marshmallows, and Reese's Pieces.
Pack Portable Lunches
Have a Signature Drink
I love handing guests a special cocktail when they arrive at the party. Keep it simple: Think big batch and ready to serve.
Recipe: Caramel Apple Sangria
Rethink Fall Classics
A big slice of apple pie is a nice treat, but these Salted Caramel-Apple Hand Pies (a twist on my usual recipe) are much easier to enjoy while strolling around the patch.
Recipe: Salted Caramel-Apple Hand Pies
Decorate Playful Pumpkins
I'm always on the hunt for creative carving ideas. My friend Abigail McGinnis (a calligrapher) wrote "It's Fall Y'all" on the pumpkin, and then I etched the outer skin just enough to allow light to shine through.
Go All Out with a Fun Theme
Play up the laid-back outdoor setting with decorations. Gibbs Smith's retro-inspired wool pennants hit all the right notes, pairing collegiate nostalgia with encouraging messages. Fill a vintage bucket with peanuts to hold the flags in place.