Fall weather? Not so much.
Fall tradition? Nothing to write home about.
Along the Gulf Coast, autumn follows summer without the fanfare of spectacular leaves and dramatic cold spells. Subtle changes begin with little more than a breath of fresh air in the morning and evening.
This is why, on the first day of the season, natives and newcomers need the Top Ten Signs of Fall in Florida.
No. 10: People try to turn off their air conditioning.
“Try” is the operative word here. Often it takes several attempts.
Just because one person in a house might be ready to embrace fall, flinging open doors and windows, doesn’t mean everyone else is willing to ditch the AC.
All too often, a sweet morning turns into a sweaty afternoon.
“In September, it kind of teases you,” says Anita Deans of Venice. “It’s like, Oh, this feels cool, but the next day it’s back to humid.”
No. 9: People start looking for snowbirds.
Most winter residents will not arrive for another month or two, but year-round Floridians like to keep an eye out.
It’s a sport, more or less.
Snowbird-watching is a lot like regular birdwatching. You have to know when and where and how to look.
“You see them, little by little,” says Yvonne Sonnenleiter of Englewood. “At restaurants, mostly.”
No. 8: People stop worrying about hurricanes.
Hurricane season doesn’t end until Nov. 30, officially, but most Floridians have already breathed a sigh of relief.
That portable generator is gathering dust in the corner of the garage. Those flashlights and batteries, once so perfectly organized, are now mixed up in some drawer. That box of hurricane supplies made for a nice snack.
In Sarasota, some people donate storm supplies to the All Faiths Food Bank.
“We get a lot of complete meals and canned fruit, snack bars and bottled water,” says Nicole Double, interim executive director of the food bank. “Things that are easy-to-eat and non-perishable.”
No. 7: People live and die for their football teams.
Fall football does not require fall weather. The Florida trifecta of fandom requires rooting for your high school team on Fridays, followed by your college favorite on Saturdays and your pro franchise on Sunday.
Local variations include Sailor-Gator-Bucs and Ram-Bull-Dolphins.
No. 6: People start going to farmers markets.
It just feels right. It doesn’t matter that the climate and crops are completely different in Florida.
On Saturday mornings in September, people want to walk outside, squeezing fruit and sampling vegetables.
No. 5: People dry up.
“I know it’s fall,” says Beth Anderson of Venice, “when I can walk out in the driveway at 7 o’clock in the morning, pick up the newspaper, and not break a sweat.”
No. 4: People get ready to go hunting.
The general gun season for deer opened this week in Florida. Bow hunters can hunt year-round, but they enjoy the fall season, too.
At Cooks Sportland in Venice, there’s an archery range in the rear of the store.
“This is when we get busy,” says Andrea Cook, who follows her father and grandfather at the family store. "Hunting and fishing, that’s what we do here."
No. 3: People slow mowing, start growing.
Throughout summer, those who mow their own lawns live in fear. A few weekends of heavy rains leave a yard looking like a jungle -- or the foreclosed house down the street.
Now the grass isn’t growing quite so fast and lots of people are turning to gardening. September is planting time for everything from cucumbers and kale to broccoli and lima beans.
No. 2: People work on their seasonal humor.
An old joke says you can tell it’s fall in Florida when the colors start to change on the license plates. There’s more where that came from.
“You know about the four seasons of Florida, don’t you?” Deans jokes. “Hot, hotter, summer and Christmas.”
No. 1: People wait a month for Florida to really cool off.
September is for suckers — sweaty suckers — who can’t wait for summer to end. October and November, now those are the glorious months of autumn weather in Florida.
Eight years ago, Ann Poser left the bitter cold of Wisconsin for the warm glow of Sarasota. A sign in her kitchen says “Another Day in Paradise.”
She left seasonal thinking up north.
“Honestly,” Poser says, laughing, “I don’t even think about fall in Florida."