Photo: Sean Loyless
1. Circus tents start popping up in the Walmart/K-Mart/Mall parking lot.
Those are filled with some of the most questionable fireworks money can buy. The good shops won’t have a name. It’ll just be some dude wearing an American flag shirt and his two kids running the place. You’ll come in just to check it out, and by the time he’s done talking to you in that thick, backwoods drawl, you’ll walk out carrying an armload of Black Cat Bazookas, Chinese Roman Candles, and Air Travel bottle rockets. A few weeks later, when you’ve finally blown through them all with your cousins in the back field, you’ll go back to get “just a few more” and find that the little tent is gone, and no one will even remember it being there.
2. You torture yourself with the taste of bug spray and the sickeningly sweet scent of citronella, and you swat yourself silly, and it won’t really matter.
It might be mesmerizing to sip sweet tea in the late, summer afternoon and watch the mosquitoes move in black, wavering sheets across the fields, but when fish fries with the family turn into chemical warfare, the novelty wears off. You’ll soon become sickened by the constant chemical smell of OFF!! and Repel, and you’ll spend most of your time lighting and putting out all those citronella candles that dot decks, line tables, and perch on porch railings. You’ll still go back inside with red, raised bumps spattered across your body and wonder why you ever went outside to begin with.
3. But it’ll all be worth it, because festival season officially starts.
The fact that your body is covered in little red bumps won’t matter when you’re sitting on the Farm at Bonaroo and listening to Ellie Goulding, Sam Hunt, and M83. When the Circle K starts selling Riverbend admission pins, you know that the next three months are going to be jammed packed with long nights filled with music, beer, and great entertainment.
4. You don’t need a flashlight at night.
The lightning bugs and stars will be more than enough light for you. Going fishing but don’t have bait? That’s ok, willowflies cover every motionless surface. Just grab one and pop it on a hook. Summertime in Tennessee means that swarms of insects like jarflies, mosquitoes, and ladybugs make their yearly return to chirp, bite, and drive you crazy.
5. You wake up to “Jack Frost’s last breath.”
But every Tennessean knows that the last cold snap of the year is the transition point between spring and summer, and you can finally ditch the layers for a t-shirt.
6. Every person is talking about their local river/lake.
With nearly 60,000 river miles and 560,000 acres of lakes spread across the state, it’s easy to see why many Tennesseans flock to their local swimming hole in search of relief from the oppressing heat and 90% humidity.
7. You start feeling like you’re trapped under Satan’s armpit.
For a land locked state, we have some ridiculous humidity throughout the summer. Nothing signals the start of summer in Tennessee like 98-degree weather with 94% humidity. That’s why you’ll notice that almost all of our porches are equipped with fans, coolers, and more fans.
8. Live music mixes with the sounds of jarflies, bullfrogs, and whipporwills.
We don’t let a little thing like the heat stop us from having a good time. The hotter the weather gets, the more stuff moves outside. Walk down any main street in Tennessee, like Riverfront Parkway or Market Street in Chattanooga, and you’ll be greeted with more music, beer, and heat than you’ll be able to handle.
9. You can’t go 10 miles down Highway 52 or 11 without seeing a yard sale.
Need some new dishes? How about a pair of gently used water skis or an antique civil war bayonet? You can find nearly anything you’ll ever (or never) need at one of the thousands of yards that happen during the summer. Yard saling has become such a big event that entire weekends have been devoted it.
10. Farmers park their trucks on the side of the road and hold up cardboard signs that read “Tomatoes, Peaches, Watermelon.”
They’ll stack Mayfield’s dairy crates full of produce on a table for you to browse, and if you’re nice, they’ll throw in a couple extra pieces.
11. Some dude sets up a smoker at the far end of a parking lot.
He’ll probably serve you on a paper Dixie plate that he’s covered with aluminum foil, you can probably still see last year’s grease caked to the outside of the smoker, and you’ll question where he got the meat from. But once you take that first bite, you can bet that it’s going to be some of the best damn barbecue you’ve ever eaten.