Fall is one of my favorite times of the year. The reasons have changed throughout the years but the fall harvest, the beautiful mums, football, and at one time the beginning of school, were all things that drew me to this season.

What really draws me is the newness I feel at this time of year. A new season means new flowers, new veggies, new recipes or even a new football season. (And a new photo for this column). Yes, all of these things happen each year but the change from one season to the next brings that feeling of newness of something different from the past several months.

That feeling of “newness” has spilled over into the newsroom as we work on upcoming special sections, two of which have caused a lot of excitement in the newsroom and throughout the other departments.

The first is the salute we’ve planned for firefighters across our region. These brave men and women voluntarily put their lives on the line when the sirens sound as they step forward to save lives and property from fire or traverse icy roads to come to the rescue of vehicle accident victims. Only their families know the toll their selfless volunteerism takes on each of them.

When thinking about what our focus should be for our October project this year, we all agreed that firefighters are heroes the same as our military, who we saluted last October. Our military serve around the globe, facing danger on a daily basis and so we labeled last year’s project as our Hometown Heroes because no matter where they are sent, the prayers and thoughts of those in their hometowns are with them.

This year we have called our special project Heroes Among Us. These volunteer firefighters in our communities are our neighbors, our friends, and our family. They are here among us each and every day and yet when the sirens sound they step out of their everyday lives and answer the call to come to the aid of another person – they are “Heroes Among Us.”

We’ve asked everyone across the region who wishes to write a few words of thanks for their local fire company to do so and email it to us at newsroom@thecourierexpress.com. Provide your name and town and we will publish each thank you as part of our special section that encompasses several counties and is a joint effort by four newspapers. So if you haven’t emailed us your words of thanks but wish to, please get them in by noon on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

Or if you feel more comfortable just jotting down a few words on paper and signing your name and town, that is great as well. Just drop it off at one of the four newspaper offices – the Courier Express, the Progress, the Jeffersonian Democrat or The Leader Vindicator by noon on Tuesday.

The second project that has me excited this year is our Christmas cookbook. This year we’re looking for all sorts of recipes from breads and breakfast fare, to soup and salad, main dishes and desserts.

There is a wonderful twist this year for this project.

We will be selecting 10 recipes from those submitted. Those 10 cooks/bakers will be contacted and asked to make their dish. So if you submit a recipe, please make sure it is one you feel comfortable making.

Local people in the food industry will then judge those 10 dishes in a taste-off competition. Of the 10 cooks/bakers, three will be chosen as first, second and third place winners and will receive gift cards just in time for the holidays. The deadline for recipes is the beginning of November, turn to page D2 of today’s edition for cookbook details.

Yes, this fall is stacking up to be one of the best in recent memory. Saluting our firefighters and a holiday cookbook contest – what could be better?

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