Yahoo, It’s Sweater Weather!

For those of us who live in geographic areas that experience all four seasons, there are many things to love about fall. The kids are back in school, bringing a bit of order (not to mention a bit of peace and quiet) to many families’ days. The leaves on the trees display their fall colors, turning even the plainest neighborhoods and the humblest parks and the most nondescript hillsides into vibrant works of art.

The light is a photographer’s dream this time of year, golden and saturated as the sun’s path across the sky is closer to the horizon. Sure, the days are shorter, but you can exercise outdoors at any time of the day, unfettered by the midday heat of summer. The days are pleasantly warm but the nights are chilly—it’s sweater weather!

Some "sweaters" are simple bands.
Some “sweaters” are simple bands.

And in some towns across America, even the trees are enjoying Sweater Weather.

Fashion For The Urban Forest
In my hometown of Richland, Wash., the city’s Parks and Recreation Department teamed up with dozens of volunteer knitters to create an “art-in-the-outdoors” installation called “Sweater Weather: Fashion for the Urban Forest.” Patterned after similar events around the country with names such as “Tree Huggers” and “Fall-ing for Sweaters,” this event takes place throughout the month of October and features hand-knitted “sweaters” adorning trees throughout the City’s park system.

The knitters use their creativity when preparing their tree’s “sweater.” Some of the sweaters are simple bands—long rectangles more like a scarf that simply encircle the tree with festive colors of yarn that might otherwise be discarded. Some of the sweaters resemble human sweaters, with collars and sleeves, while others are designed with the tree in mind, encircling branches and trunk in a cozy custom-fit.

Some "sweaters" look like human sweaters.
Some “sweaters” look like human sweaters.

Some knitters created designs such as snowflakes or fall leaves. Some represented characters, such as Disney favorites, teddy bears, and the “Minions” from the Despicable Me movies. And, of course, in the football-obsessed Pacific Northwest, you would expect a tree or two honoring the 2014 Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks and their “12th Man.”

Why Sweaters on Trees?
The Sweater Weather project, as with other similar projects around the country, combines art with the outdoors in an effort to get people out to enjoy the City’s parks before the cold weather hits. It’s a way to showcase the talents of the local knitters and a way to publicize knitting clubs. It’s a feel-good partnership between the City and the citizens who participate as knitters and those who participate by going to the parks to view the trees. Richland kicks it up a notch by featuring photos of the trees on its website and Facebook pages, inviting community members to vote for their favorites. They offer a Park Ranger’s Choice award, a Commissioner’s Choice award, and a Mayor’s Choice award in addition to the People’s Choice Award for the tree and sweater combination chosen by popular vote.

Some "sweaters" are designed to fit the tree.
Some “sweaters” are designed
to fit the tree.

As with any public event, this one has its detractors. One letter to the editor of the local newspaper complained that this was a waste of time and yarn, and the knitters should have been doing something for the homeless or an animal shelter instead. I’m not sure what the City of Richland has in mind, but other projects across the country have laundered their “tree sweaters” after removing them from the trees and turned them into shawls and blankets for those in need. It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation.

Celebrate Sweater Weather
I, for one, think “Sweater Weather: Fashion for the Urban Forest” has been a great idea. Seeing the brightly colored yarn, clever characters and patterns, and swaddled trees has brought a smile to my face all month as I take my daily walk by the Columbia River. Speaking of which, it’s time to hit the trail. Once I’ve put on a sweater, of course.

Does your community celebrate fall with a special event? What’s your favorite community event of the year? Please comment below.

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