With the month of October comes cooler weather, leaves falling from the trees, ghouls, goblins and witches running amuck in the neighborhoods and of course, jack-o-lanterns peaking out from front porches across the nation.
But instead of heading out to the local store this year to choose a pumpkin from a large cardboard box, how about picking one out the old-fashioned way – straight from the patch.
Even before the days of watching Charlie Brown stake out the Great Pumpkin in the Halloween cartoon classic, visiting pumpkin patches has been a popular Family pastime for decades. Kansas offers several pumpkin patches with a wide variety of pumpkins in all shapes and sizes to choose from within a short driving distance of Fort Riley.
In addition to picking out a customized pumpkin, many of the patches, like the Sunnyside Pumpkin Patch, south of Salina, and Walters Pumpkin Patch, north of El Dorado, offer Family-friendly activities. These include hayrack rides around the patch, corn and flashlight mazes, pumpkin chucking and homemade pumpkin treats.
At Walters Pumpkin Patch in Burns, Kan., 10 miles north of El Dorado on Highway 77, visitors can not only choose their own pumpkin, but also can navigate through corn and flashlight mazes, eat pumpkin chili and other patch treats at the Pumpkin Pantry, chuck a pumpkin from a giant slingshot or shoot pumpkins with high-velocity pumpkin artillery. Children can jump on a huge in-ground jumping pillow; play in the O’Play Barn, O’Play Corral and corn bin; pet baby animals; or see Boo Mountain and ride pedal boats and cars.
Additionally, an “All You Can Carry Day” is planned for Oct. 25, where visitors can purchase all the pumpkins they can carry for $15. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday; from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and from 1 to 7 p.m. Sunday throughout the month of October. Not all attractions at the patch are open during the week. For more information or directions, contact Becky Walters at 316-320-4150 or visit walterspumpkinpatch.com.
At the Sunnyside Pumpkin Patch, south of Salina on I-35 to Exit 82, visitors can pick from cucumbers, melons, gourds and pumpkins, try to navigate through the corn, straw and hay bale mazes or take horse-drawn hay or wagon rides. The Patch offers a gift shop, a snack and refreshment stand, as well as a picnic area and restroom facilities. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday in October, with a night maze from 6 to 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. For directions or additional information, go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other pumpkin patches within a 30- to- 80-mile radius of Fort Riley include Browndale Farms, 1634 Buffalo Road in Clay Center (email@example.com, 785-427-3335 or 785-630-0032); Britt’s Garden Acres, 1400 S. Scenic Drive in Manhattan (785-539-1901); and Smoky Hill Bison Co. Maze and Pumpkin Patch, 2660 E. Hobbs Creek Road in Assaria (firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-790-2665).
For a full list of pumpkin patches in Kansas, go to www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/KSpumpkins.php.
By Dena O’Dell