The leaves are changing color and there’s a nip in the air; autumn is upon us. One of the symbols most closely associated with fall and Halloween is the pumpkin. Whether you cook with them or use them for decorating, you know that summer is officially over once you see pumpkins for sale by the roadside.
While you can purchase pumpkins almost anywhere: farmer’s markets, grocery stores and even Wal-Mart, why not turn your search for the perfect pumpkin into a day trip by visiting one of several destinations in western New York that offer more than just a place to buy a pumpkin.
With a name like Pumpkinville, you know what they specialize in. Pumpkins, lots of pumpkins. Pumpkinville, New York State’s oldest continually working pumpkin farm, was started in the late 1960’s by the Halloran family. Today, the destination, which is located in Great Valley, near Ellicottville, is operated by Dan and Diane Pawlowski and their children, Jim and Lisa.
My family made the trek down to Pumpkinville a couple weeks ago on their opening weekend. Not merely a farm market, Pumpkinville is a family-friendly fall entertainment destination that offers activities for the entire family. Pumpkinville was the winner of the 2008 New York State Agri-tourism award from the I Love NY campaign.
My six-year old, who last visited when he was a baby, was amazed at the rows upon rows of pumpkins on display (They range in price from $2 to $15). What I first noticed was a delicious aroma that seemed to permeate the place. The source of that wonderful smell turned out to be Di’s Pie and Bake Shop, which features made-from-scratch baked goods, including pumpkin muffins, pie, bread, and cookies and my personal favorite, pumpkin donuts. You can watch the donuts being made, as there is a large glass observation window on the side of the building.
Next door at the Snack Shack, you can get pumpkin or vanilla ice cream, apple slices with caramel sauce, popcorn, candy apples and more. They even have freshly made cider, made in their circa 1870’s apple cider mill, which the Pawlowski’s moved to the property in 2004 and refurbished. Since it was a warm afternoon, I tried one of their cider slushies.
There are many children’s activities to choose from; some are free, others have a nominal fee. Activities include a Spook-um barn, farm animals, a six-acre corn maze, pony rides, a cow train, ducky derby and new this year, a corn cannon, when you can fire corn cobs at hay bale targets.
Since we ate lunch before we arrived, we didn’t have the opportunity to sample some of the tasty foods offered at their BBQ Pit, including hot dogs, beef on weck, pulled pork, Italian sausage, chili and fries. On weekends, a chicken BBQ is also available.
In addition to pumpkins, one can also purchase fudge, baked goods, jams and more at their Bounty Barn. I picked up one of their Pumpkinville cookbooks, which has dozens of pumpkin and apple recipes. The Boo-tique has craft items, Halloween décor and candy. Maple products from Moore’s Maple Shack are also available. You can also get mums, apples and squash.
Upcoming events include the Great Pumpkin Weigh-off, which takes place today beginning at noon and Fall Festival Weekend, next weekend, October 11-12, which coincides with the Fall Festival in nearby Ellicottville.
The Great Pumpkin Farm
If you want to stick closer to home, you don’t have to go further than the Great Pumpkin Farm on Main Street in Clarence. Boasting one of the largest pumpkin patches in the world, they have quite a selection to choose from. This weekend and next they will be offering a variety of festival related activities, including crafts, face painting, live entertainment and more. (A $5 admission fee is charged for these weekends only; the rest of the time, admission is free).
The facility has a hay maze and playground for young children, farm animals and a large retail shop filled with Halloween decorations and handmade crafts. On weekends, hayrides are offered, they also have a corn maze, magic show, a bakery selling all sorts of tempting goodies and a number of food concessions.
The Pumpkin Olympics will take place on Columbus Day weekend and the annual Pumpkin Drop takes place on Monday October 13. Other upcoming events include the 3rd annual High School Trebuchet Contest on Sunday Oct. 19 and a family-friendly “Boo-Bash” on Saturday October 25.
It’s Pumpkin Fiesta Time
To me, it isn’t fall without a trip to Becker Farms in Gasport. Their annual Pumpkin Fiesta takes place weekends through October 26. The event features live entertainment, a corn maze, labyrinth, farm animals, pony rides, kid’s activities and u-pick pumpkins and apples. They’ve added a 60-foot slide, referred to as Becker Mountain. Their retail shop is open daily for delicious homemade pies, apples, seasonal décor and more.
Becker Farms has been family owned and operated for over 100 years. Current owners, Mindy Becker Vizcarra and her husband, Oscar, added a winery, Vizcarra Vineyards, to their operation several years ago. They specialize mainly in fruit wines.
While buying pumpkins is not the main attraction at Holiday Hollow in Genesee County (Although they do sell them in their gift shop), it is a really unique attraction that will get you and your young children in the Halloween spirit. The Walker family has been operating this attraction, which has been featured on the CBS Morning Show and HGTV, each October for the past 17 years. It is a happy, family-friendly, non-scary destination.
George Walker commented that the place has really gown over the years. “We’ve evolved from a place where you might spend a couple of hours, to a real spend-the-day “day-cation” destination for gas conscious families. He added, “We’re now called the Holiday Hollow Halloween and Pirate Festival and we’ve expanded to seven live shows, in addition to our other attractions.. This makes us more like a miniature Renaissance Fair, but with a Halloween and Pirate theme. We’ve also added a beautiful new indoor theater, so we are now a rain or shine destination.”
The Great Pumpkin Walk
Enjoy an evening stroll along a trail lined with over 600 carved Jack o’lanterns. The one-mile round-trip trek is a fund raiser for the Ontario Pathways Trail, a 23 mile hiking trail near Canandaigua in Ontario County. This annual event takes place on October 18 from 6:30-9:30pm.
Pumpkinville (716-699-2994; www.pumpkinville.com ) 4830 Sugartown Rd., Great Valley. Open daily 9am-7pm until Oct. 31. Free admission; charges for some activities.
The Great Pumpkin Farm (716-759-8483; www.greatpumpkinfarm.com) 11199 Main Street, Clarence. Open daily 10am-dusk. $5 admission charged festival weekends Sept 27-28, Oct. 4-5, 11-13. Free admission rest of season.
Becker Farms/Vizcarra Vineyards (716-772-2211; www.beckerfarms.com) 3760 Quaker Road, Gasport. Festival times Sat-Sun. 12-5; admission $7 for Fiesta, $10 to include Fiesta plus Becker Mountain and Mazes. No admission charged to visit farm market
Holiday Hollow (585-762-8160; www.holidayhollow.com) 1410 Main Road, Corfu, I mile east of Route 77. Open every Saturday and Sunday in October, plus Columbus Day. Admission is $10 for ages 10 and up, $9 for kids 3-9, children 2 and under are free. (Note: no credit cards are accepted)
The Great Pumpkin Walk (585-398-2424; www.ontariopathways.org) parking at the Ontario County Fairgrounds, CR 10, Canandaigua.