There is something about fall that I find so enchanting. The crispness in the air, the bountiful harvest, bonfires, and walks in leaves. It opens the door to the great white winter. Fall reminds me every year that there is a rhythm to life and a time for every season. It is also when my garden is full and flowing with rich and fresh vegetables begging to be delighted in.

For the last ten years, to honor the gift of fall, we have hosted a backyard harvest festival. Each year with a bit of a twist or focus. One year it was the Pie Party, and everyone had to bring a pie dish. The next year it was the Garden Speakeasy, and we celebrated with specialty cocktails. Although the theme has changed, the purpose has not: we gather together to foster relationships, build memories, share in good food, and enjoy good conversation.

It has ultimately become the neighborhood event that no one wants to miss. Food and music have a way of bringing people together. When you ask folks to bring their favorite dish, it opens the door for cultural exploration. I’ve watched the Harvest Supper draw people out of their comfort zones as they interact with folks who they may not normally meet in their everyday lives. It becomes an evening of expansion—a way to expand our pallets, expand our understanding, expand our hearts, and expand our ability to see humanity.

When folks have the opportunity to create common experiences and memories, they have a starting point to find their way to one another. Common history binds people together. It is often what is lacking in diverse communities where our experiences differ so vastly.

The burden of hosting the Harvest Supper doesn’t fall on one person. Everyone brings a dish or drinks to share. If folks aren’t able to bring food, they bring cups or plates. Those who have apple trees share their harvest so kids can play Bobbing for Apples. Others bring two-liter bottles filled with water and food coloring and glow sticks from the dollar store to set up for glow-in-the-dark bowling. If folks don’t have the ability to contribute, we dole out tasks. Washing dishes, compiling a playlist, serving drinks, welcoming neighbors—the tasks are endless and there is a role for everyone to play. When everyone has something to contribute, everyone has a stake in the game. The Harvest Supper then belongs to everyone; it’s a collective united effort for intentional community building.

Folks who are experiencing homelessness sometimes join in the party. Cousins and friends looking for jobs have found connections at this gathering. A neighbor who needed help with a house project found another neighbor who had the skills and tools to do the job. I will forever be grateful for the Harvest Supper and the way it fosters joy, connection, and common ground.

Does your neighborhood host any annual events? Do you feel a greater sense of community when you participate versus when you don’t? What can you do to help foster neighborhood connectedness like the Harvest Supper does?