02.11.2013 - 24.11.2013
The annual College football game between the Florida University Gators and the Georgia University Bulldogs is a very popular game, held nearly every year since 1915. It is held in the neutral territory of Jacksonville and has become so popular in recent years that is has become known as 'the 'World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party'. It was even mentioned in the book 'Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil' by John Berendt, among others. We were lucky enough to get some tickets to this game and also to share the day with Aidan and Meg and also friends visiting from Australia, Sarah and Daniel.
The whole day is not just about the game itself, but also about the rivalry between the two teams. Everywhere we went around the stadium, we saw people dressed in either orange and blue (Gators) or red and white (Bulldogs), decorated cars, trailers, tents etc in team colours, tailgaters EVERYWHERE, and people drinking. There was a very large security presence but people appeared to be behaving relatively respectably and drinking whilst walking to the game (although this was not acted upon by the police). We stopped off for some beer and some of the best BBQ we've had yet set up in the car park of a small convenience store. Had we known that there was no alcohol in the stadium (due to the game being a College game), we would have bought more than half a carton of beer!!
The marching band rivalry is also very competitive and throughout the game, the opposing bands were seated at opposite ends of the stands belting out their tunes. At half time, the bands came out for their own showdown. We left after the third quarter as Carys was becoming very restless and the game had already drawn on for nearly 3 hours. Georgia eventually won the game 23-20.
Around this time, we discovered a new friend living in our front garden. He likes sitting in the sun and eating small lizard and bugs. Meet Randall!
We believe that Randall is a Southern Black Racer and we wave to him whenever we spy him through the window. He usually sits on top of our front hedges so he is easy to spot. Meeting Randall was also a good opportunity to teach Carys about how snakes shed their skin as we later found a complete skin, including face, although I can't find that photo anywhere.
We found out relatively late in the Halloween season about a crop maze nearby called the Amazing Grace Crop Maze. Every year, a different theme is planned for the maze and this year the maze theme was 'Amazing Grace' (the words were the maze and you can see the aerial photo at the bottom of the link page). By the time we got to the maze (which is not planted with corn but with sorghum), the plants were very brown and it was very quiet...all the better for us to have the maze and grounds to ourselves! There was a corn crib, cow train, pumpkin patch and more family fun to enjoy and Carys loved exploring! We are looking forward to visiting again next year to explore the maze when it is greener to compare the difference.
The next day, we visited the Jacksonville Fair for what we hoped would be a fun day and for most of our day, it was! Apart from Sideshow Alley, we enjoyed the racing pigs, watched chicks hatch, marvelled at the size of some of the cattle and avoided all things deep fried. A typical day at the fair until Carys injured her arm on one of the attractions. We believe she may have pinched her arm in a moving stairway but as soon as we saw her arm, we raced straight to the nearby Children's Hospital for x-rays. The Fairground staff were absolutely no help at all and the attraction supervisor didn't seem bothered that a young child had potentially broken her arm. Needless to say, we won't visit the Jacksonville Fair again! Thankfully, Carys eventually settled and allowed the x-rays to be taken and thankfully, she only suffered a fairly strong contusion which took a few weeks to fully recover from. The staff were wonderful and the Dr showed Carys her arm x-ray which she was very interested about. This was our first, and hopefully last, introduction to the the Florida hospital system!
Food trucks are a big thing here in the USA and we are always keen to try the foods they have on offer. There was a Food Truck Rally on the morning of Carys' birthday party and we ducked into town to see what was happening. At a guess, there were probably about 15 trucks and the crowds were small when we arrived so we were able to get in, grab a bite to eat and head home to prep for our Little Gym party (we actually had a classmate party 2 hours before ours so we had 2 Little Gym parties on the same day!) My favourite meal were the swedish meatballs from the Swedish Bistro truck but my favourite truck was Chew Chew Food Truck, and not just for the Chuck Norris joke of the Day!
Ok, party time! Carys had a Dora and Diego themed party at the Little Gym and we invited all of her classmates and some of her Australian friends. We served Aussie food like mini pavlovas, cheese and vegemite crackers, fairy bread and the almost obligatory chicken nuggets and it was fantastic to see everyone have a wonderful time! Carys had an awesome party and loved all of her presents; Poppy even left some wonderful dress up clothes and a new costume box to start her costume collection. Thanks Poppy!