Rotary Pumpkin Patch: It’s all about the kids - and community service
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: October 24, 2012
The 6th Annual Rotary Club of Santa Paula Faulkner Farm Pumpkin Patch is showing again that it’s all about kids - and community service - at the only nonprofit harvest festival in the county. The Patch is held at the UC Hansen Trust Agricultural Center (historic Faulkner Farm); admission is only $5 per person (babies too young to walk admitted free). Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for the final weekend October 27-28.
The Patch draws thousands of visitors each year to experience farm life and get an appreciation for how all those good things to eat are grown. Old-fashioned family fun and promoting agricultural education have been a long-standing Patch tradition.
It takes an army of dedicated volunteers to make sure the Patch runs smoothly each year: “Optimists really enjoy handling the parking at the patch,” said Ron Merson, especially as “The Patch is a lot more family friendly.”
Merson and fellow Optimist David LaGeese said Patch visitors traveled from as far away as San Diego. “Some say they’ve been coming for decades; it has quite a following,” LaGesse noted. Merson said he appreciates “the way the Rotary Club involves the community to take care of the community” and shares event proceeds through donations and grants.
Rotarian Michele Johns oversees volunteers, more than 300 willing helpers from students and youth athletes to service clubs and organizations. “And individuals, people who just call and say they want to help,” who Johns said she is happy to put to work selling or collecting tickets, on educational hay rides, helping visitors pick out perfect produce, or even strapping pumpkins into the trebuchet, AKA the pumpkin chucker.
The Patch is also the place to eat good food, listen to music and relax. The Isbell Middle School Condor Chorus is always a favorite, and other entertainment ranges from the rock and rollin’ Cruise Knights to Dixieland by the Razzberry Jam Band.
Rotary President Guy Cole said he expects another successful Patch, and his companion Seana-Marie Sesma noted they started their day with “our breakfast of Kettlecorn!”
Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley CEO Jan Marholin, also a Rotarian, was bragging about the club’s fundraising: “Signature cotton candy... or I should say my signature cotton candy, because when I make it we never know what shape it will be!” Club Director Karen Reynolds, a cotton candy “spinner in training,” agreed it is an art.
A new attraction for visiting school children that Rotarian Maria Bombara said has been a huge hit is a puppet that teaches children how pumpkins grow. “You see those hundreds of happy smiling children,” fascinated by the show and the demonstration of how food goes from the ground to their dining tables. And, noted Bombara, of course “we’ve had perfect Rotary Pumpkin Patch weather!”
Rotarians Elias Valdes and Nils Rueckert were “strategizing ice cream sales,” the former said with a laugh as the pair made sure the freezer top was fitted tight. “The Pumpkin Patch is all about the kids... and there’s nothing like seeing the kids have a good time; even buying and eating an ice cream,” Valdes noted, “you can see they’re having the time of their lives.”
Patch admission includes a red corn maze, hay pyramid, old-fashioned hayrides and 27 acres of pumpkins, food, crafts and animals to create a harvest of fun off Highway 126 at Briggs Road. Other attractions such as face painting and the Pumpkin Chucker can be enjoyed for a nominal cost.
For more information, visit www.faulknerfarmpumpkinpatch.com.