Our days are growing shorter and nights are getting crisper, which means only one thing: autumn is upon us. With it comes the opportunity to give new meaning to outdoor entertaining. Hosting an autumn festival in your backyard is a great way to utilize your outdoor living areas and bring your neighbourhood together for a night of fun and games.
Plan on Planning
The secret to successfully executing a fall festival is planning everything out in advance. Leave nothing to chance. Do this and you’ll be certain that every aspect of your evening is accounted for with every minute on the hour full of fun.
Your plan of action should entail:
- The goals and objectives of your autumn festival.
- A budget that will help you to reach your goals and objectives without straining your wallet.
- A creative vision for your event space and how to translate that vision into a reality.
- A rough itinerary of activities and entertainment.
- Food and drink selections.
- Who you plan on inviting, including the number of both adults and children.
- The materials you will need to bring the whole event together.
When planning your event, consider each of the aforementioned items carefully. Fleshing out these facets will ensure all your bases are covered as your autumn festivities draw near.
Additionally, keep in mind that it never hurts to go above and beyond the expectations of your guests. Subverting expectations is how you as a party host can develop new and exciting traditions.
Spice of Life
With the planning out of the way, you can get down to the business of breaking ground on your autumn festival.
Food is of the utmost importance this time of year. Warm, hearty meals are the fabric of autumn’s DNA – especially when it comes to bringing festive flavors to your backyard fest.
Feeding a crowd of people casually is all about embracing ingenuity. Variety may be the spice of life, and it can also come in handy when curating a sampling of foods for your festival guests to enjoy.
One of the easiest ways to capture the essence of fall cuisine is to cook up a great big pot of homemade chili. It’s a surefire crowd pleaser that’s a breeze to whip up. And the best part? You can even put together an entire chili bar for your guests to sample a slew of different flavors and varieties.
- Chili Con Carne is typically what comes to mind when chilli is mentioned. “Carne”, meaning meat, lets guests know this hearty stew will be heavy on the heart and light on the broth.
- White chicken chili is one of the easiest chili varieties to prepare. White beans are cooked at a low heat with diced boneless, skinless chicken thighs, chili powder, minced garlic, cumin, and whatever your favorite heat element is, from cayenne to spicy sausage. Together, these flavors combine and thicken for a satisfying meal that pairs well with jalapeno and sour cream garnishes.
- Who says meat eaters get to have all the fun? Vegetarian chili is just as filling as the meat-centric varieties. The secret? Twice the beans and sweet peppers. Mix and match your favorite varieties of beans for a meal just as hearty as the meaty counterpart.
All varieties of chili begin with the same basic ingredients before splintering in subsequent stages of the recipe.
- Start by sweating a large yellow onion diced, three stalks of celery in thin slices, and two thinly sliced carrots in a dutch oven over medium heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and two minced garlic cloves before seasoning with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes. (Subsitute two diced green peppers – one large sweet and one mildly spicy such as a poblano – for carrots in your white chicken chili base)
- For traditional meat chili, brown your mix of ground sirloin until cooked medium before adding to your sweating vegetables along with one can of crushed tomatoes, and traditional chili beans. Add cumin, chili powder, and paprika before simmering on low until thick, stirring occasionally.
- For the vegetarian chili, skip the meat and replace that portion with a mix of black beans and traditional chili beans.
- For your chicken chili, dice your thighs and follow the same methods as you would for your traditional meat chili. Add white beans in a ratio of 2-1 with your chicken thighs, add chicken stock, cumin, and chili powder and simmer on low until thick, stirring occasionally.
Serve your chili with a selection of your favorite garnishes. These can include corn chips, jalapeños, grated hard cheddar, sour cream, and green onions. You can even peel off your standard grill cover and serve up some hot, grilled chili snags
Decor is ambience and ambiance is everything when it comes to throwing an autumn festival. To strike the right visual tone for your celebration, you can draw ample inspiration from your own backyard. The warm colours of the changing leaves mixed with the rugged textures of the season make for the perfect aesthetic combination.
Utilizing plaid patterns in your decor will set the scene. Plaid exudes comfort and is ideal for the transition between summer and winter when the nights are cooler.
Bales of hay combine practical utility with aesthetically pleasing decor. Integrate hay into dining and seating areas to serve as tables and benches. You can even decorate bales with the help of pumpkins, gourds, and custom tarps emblazoned with festive fall graphics.
Any other chairs and couches can be protected by a chair cover set and sectional covers, dissuading guests from sitting anywhere off limits.
Adding string lights to your backyard bash is the touch you need to tie everything together. This rustic lighting style is perfect for the cozy vibes of autumn. Opt for large bulb, edison style lights for the perfect mix of aesthetics and functionality.
Fire in the Pit!
No fall night is complete without a roaring bonfire. Bring a classic autumn bonnie to your backyard by firing up the fire pit. This is an excellent way to bring your friends and family together, especially on colder nights when the sun is long past set. All you have to do is peel off your custom fire pit covers and strike the match.
Cozy seating on adirondack chairs and ottoman benches provides a laid back place to relax around the fire, inviting guests to enjoy the evening without worry. For an even more casual flare, you can adorn the seating with cozy blankets and accent pillows. Seating arrangements can be protected until party time by a personalized chair cover set and sectional covers.
Pass around marshmallows and toast them over the open flame with a stick for a touch of tradition. S’more kits with all the fixings can be passed around for even more tasty fun that’s sure to add a memorable moment to your festivities.
Serving seasonal beverages is a must. A wide selection of libations should be offered, but you definitely need the following on hand:
- Apple cider. Hot and cold. Spiced or iced. Apple cider is a staple of autumn as both a refreshing beverage and kiss of comfort.
- Hot chocolate is especially great for fireside chats and can be spiced up for the big kids if served with the likes of Baileys or Kahlua.
- A selection of seasonal wines is a must. Sémillons, Roussannes, and Barberas are three top contenders you may want to consider.
With the other pieces in place, there’s only fun to be had. The only problem? Figuring out what activities to offer.
- Cornhole is an easy setup and invites some friendly competition, where guests can toss some bags while shooting the breeze.
- Create a pumpkin patch in your front yard, inviting guests to pick out a prized gourd on their way out.
- A craft table can provide hours of fun, especially when you forever preserve the beauty of unique fall leaves in shadow boxes, giving your guests another take home favor.
- Finally, is there anything more authentic in autumn than the blooming of apple orchards? Put that harvest to good use by hosting an apple pie cookoff, inviting your friends and family the chance to bring a pie and put their recipes to the test.