Tuesday, October 13, 2015

An Indiana Tradition

There are certain times when I feel like a super-Hoosier, and I love it. I love my Indiana heritage, and all the traditions that go along with it. We had a chance to go to Myrtle Beach this week, but decided not to, and although it would have been a lot of fun, I'm kind of glad to stay here right now. Indiana in autumn is simply beautiful, and my favorite time of year.

There's one tradition that I haven't missed once in my lifetime, and that's what's known as the "Stewfest". When I was younger we just called it "Joe & Darlene's".

Every October, my Great-Uncle Joe and Aunt Darlene host a get-together in their big red barn, and my maternal grandpa's side of the family gathers, Uncle Joe cooks stew over the fire, we roast marshmallows, we catch up, and, if the weather cooperates, we go on a hayride. Uncle Joe and Aunt Darlene live out in the country in Morgan County, Indiana, down a windy road, their big house with the wrap-around porch set up on a hill in the trees overlooking the wide open fields. My immediate family has even had a tradition of listening to a particular album on the way down to their house since I was probably in elementary school - the Last of the Mohicans soundtrack - but we can't turn it on until we get to SR-67, and the brightly colored hills are all around us. This tradition took on almost mythic proportions for me as a child, and to this day, even now in my 30s, it seems almost magical.

Uncle Joe & Aunt Darlene with the famous stew

The hayride is my favorite part of the whole thing. This year was the first in three years that we got our hayride. Two years ago the fields were too wet, and last year it was pouring down rain, so heavy we could hardly hear each other over the pounding on the barn roof, and my brother Nicholas and cousin Allie and I agreed it didn't really feel like the Stewfest and went home rather bummed. But this year, as the Stewfest has entered a new age with its own hashtag on Facebook among family members, this year was perfect.

My mom with her 3 grandchildren - Micah, Kira, & Ellie - the 5th generation of the Lutz family to attend the Stewfest

We huddle up next to each other in the hay in our sweatshirts and hoodies as Uncle Joe pulls us on his tractor. The Milky Way is clearly visible above us, and we point out all the constellations we know. Aunt Robin starts singing the Brady Bunch song. My son Micah is snuggled in my lap, one of the 5th generation of Lutz family members to attend the Stewfest. My sister Kristin has her little daughter, Kira, at her first Stewfest. And then when we're way out in the field, my mom recites James Whitcomb Riley's "The Gobble-uns'll getcha ef ya don't watch out" as we all chime in on that part, we all go "wooo-oooo" with the wind, and "have the mostest fun." After that, my brother Nicholas takes after my uncle Isaac and cousins Joey and Kevin, and climbs silently out of the wagon and scares my cousin Jameson half to death. The trees finally clear enough for us to see the whole Big Dipper and I point it out to my daughter Ellie. The tractor rumbles on and we joke and laugh and then we're back and it's time to get out and trudge back up the hill to the barn. We roast some marshmallows, catch up around the fire, and then I hate it but it's time to go. We have a long drive home and it's late. The night was so perfect it could definitely go down in the books as the Stewfest to beat.

I don't know October without it, and I'm already looking forward to next year.

"and the gobble-uns'll getcha ef ya don't watch out!"
What fall traditions does your family celebrate?

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