This past weekend, we decided to embark on a seasonal family trip and went for a jaunt to a pumpkin patch. We had seen a lot of publicity for Shady Brook Farm’s Halloween events so that was the one we plumped for.
I have to admit that at first I thought we might have been ripped off. The entry price was not cheap and every ticket booth had a large sign declaring that no refunds would be given. Was this because some people might find it all too scary and want to immediately leave or was it because the whole thing was a bit sketchy? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, as the saying goes, so we decided to risk it. At first it looked as if our cynicism was valid: in front of us lay a whole area of what looked like sideshows and fairground food places requiring more money to exchange hands. However, once we explored a bit more, the whole farm area opened up and we could see that there were far more activities than we had anticipated at no additional cost and actually a good few of the fairground things (bouncy slides, for instance) were also included in the ticket price.
Our four boys had a blast! They found the pig and dachshund races hilarious, enjoying the puns and jokes made by the commentator as much as they enjoyed seeing animals racing around a track. The 3D Alien Encounter was a lot of fun simply because it was unlike anything we had experienced before, wandering around with 3D glasses on so that scenes from painted walls jumped out at us. The Barn of Horror was a massive hit with the kids. We wandered around the interior of a very dark barn, tight walls creating a maze and limiting our field of vision, fomenting fear of the unknown. At almost every turn, the narrow rat-run would open up to reveal a creepy scene. Thankfully during the day the scenes are just inhabited by mannequins and props whereas at night they have real people jumping out. Initially some of our kids found it too creepy and disturbing but sibling competition and an innate love of the macabre rallied them and eventually all four of them did a tour of the barn. For me the creepiest bit was actually an audio recording of a voice whose direction could not be accurately placed talking in hushed tones as we weaved our way along one particular corridor. We also attempted the Giant Corn Maze (they really missed an alliterative and punning opportunity by not designating it the Maize Maze) but were defeated in the end. The boys also munched on soft pretzels (which they had had in Scotland) and funnel cake (which they had not), declaring both to be delicious and devouring every morsel.
The object of our visit, of course, was to visit a pumpkin patch and select some pumpkins for carving. We, therefore, hopped aboard some rough wooden wagons being hauled behind a tractor and chuntered past a field decorated with zombies before arriving at a pumpkin patch. And there they were, those symbols of an American Fall, all orange and plump, lolling among the dry grass on the ground, among green tendrils of recent growth, just waiting to be selected and carved up as a Halloween decoration. This was a first pumpkin patch for both myself and the kids so they scattered and scampered and I bounded after them, camera in hand, capturing this first experience for posterity. Eventually they had each selected one they felt was appropriate for them – my non-conformist second son obviously choosing an odd shaped pumpkin – and we clambered back aboard the wagon to take our pumpkins home to be stabbed and skewered and scooped and carved to form lanterns for Halloween night.
We now have an American family tradition under our belts and it has certainly whetted our appetites as a prelude to Halloween itself.