It has been nearly two weeks since September's onslaught of rain finally yielded to sunshine and fair weather. Toward the end of that dreary spell, even this rain-loving toad, who held regular court in the wood chips outside my front door, seemed reluctant to leave his burrow as dusk approached. But now fall is well upon us, and cooler weather has claimed the night, it's high time to ditch the umbrellas and forego the threat of canceled plans. And to be sure, there's a lot to look forward to across Manatee County -- from mall openings to the thrills of Halloween, the holidays beyond, Amendment 2 controversy, escalating political theater and even Nik Wallenda wire walks! Whether you choose to wear a mask or just be yourself come Oct. 31, here's to the good weather and good times ahead.