Pumpkin patches are popping up throughout the region
Pumpkin patches are an old-fashioned fall family favorite. As a child, most of us have fond memories of fall family outings at the pumpkin patch. Finding the perfect pumpkin, so that a scary or festive face could be carved out, was imperative to the outing. After carving the pumpkin, baking the tasty pumpkin seeds was nearly as fun. The tradition continues as families visit pumpkin patches to find the perfect one to carve. Parents bring their children, grandparents bring their grandkids and all bring their cameras for that Kodak moment in the patch. Many of the pumpkin patches also offer a whole lot more than just pumpkins. For example, some offer costume contests, hayrides, corn mazes, and even petting zoos, so that a family can make a whole day of it.Fruitville Grove, a Farm Fresh Family Market in Sarasota offering a wide variety of fresh produce, has a Pumpkin Festival that is now in it's 25th year. The festival will be taking place this Oct. 26 & 27 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The festival has a petting zoo, hayrides, a costume contest, and vendors, such as Randy's Famous Kettle Corn and Alday's Corn Dogs & Fries, to name a few. According to Fruitville Grove, "Parents with older children eagerly await the day that they can bring their grandchildren to this popular festival." Husanders, a farm market and U-pick in Bradenton, has a Pumpkin Festival that is taking place, from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. The festival offers live music, shows, a children's train ride, and delicious foods like yummy homemade ice cream and farm roasted sweet corn, and let's not forget delicious pumpkin pie! Admission is $8, kids 12 and under are free, Parking is $5. Pumpkin Patch Express, at the Florida Railroad Museum in Parrish, offers pumpkin patch lovers a chance to take a train ride out to and back from a pumpkin patch. This two-hour excursion includes a half hour train ride each way and an hour's stay in the patch where there are arts and crafts activities and food vendors located. One pumpkin per child is included in the ticket price. The Express has been putting this family tradition back into the fall for many years. "Families come back every year to ride the train. It's a family tradition that is so fun that even when the kids get older, they still enjoy it." Sarah Mckeehen, spokesperson for the Florida Railroad Museum who explained that that the festival starts off with about 4,000 pumpkins. The Express Train will run this Saturday, Oct 26 and Sunday 27, at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Arrive early for a ticket. The Pumpkin Patch, at the Christ United Methodist Church in Bradenton, offers a variety of family favorites. On Saturdays free hot dogs and drinks are given out from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., there's also a pumpkin decorating contest from 1 to 2 p.m., as well as a jump house, bake sale, and free book giveaways. On Halloween evening, Oct. 31, the fun continues with Trick or Trunk from 5 p.m.- 8 p.m. on the church's front lawn. "This is great fun for the whole family and is a safe environment for children," Laura Kielmann, administrative assistant. "The Trick or Trunk event is an especially popular event," added Kielmann, who explained that costumed church members decorate their car trunks and the kids go from trunk to trunk to trick or treat. The Sarasota Pumpkin Festival offers fun activities like face painting, carnival rides, hayrides, pony rides and safe trick or treating. Along with a pumpkin patch this lively festival offers live music and street performers. The festival takes place on Friday, Oct 25, Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27, noon to 10 p.m. Entrance fee and other ticket fees apply for various rides and activities. Once you're back home from the festival, or your visit to a pumpkin patch, it's time to carve and start soaking those salty seeds. First wash the seeds and soak them in salt water for about 8 hours. (Use 1 & 1/2 teaspoons of salt per cup of water with enough water to cover the seeds.) Once soaked, drain on a paper towel. Place the seeds in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Toss until they are lightly coated. Spread the seeds evenly on a baking sheet and place in a preheated 300-degree oven. Roast the seeds for about 45 minutes, stirring frequently, until crisp and golden brown. If you go: Fruitville Grove 7410 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota 941-377-0896 www.fruitvillegrove.com Pumpkin Festival: Oct. 26-27, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Free admission. Free parking. $2, hayrides, $3 train rides. Different vendors at the event have prices on their offerings. Bring cash. No ATM. Call or check the website for further details. Hunsader Farms 5500 County Road 675, Bradenton 941-322-2168 http://www.hunsaderfarms.com/ Saturday Oct. 26 - Sunday, Oct. 27, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $8, kids 12 and under are free, Parking is $5 Call or check the website for showtimes and details. Pumpkin Patch Express Florida Railroad Museum 12210 83rd St. E, (behind the US Post Office), Parrish 877-869-0800 http://www.frrm.org/index1.php Saturday, Oct 26 & Sunday Oct. 27, 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. (Arrive early for a ticket.) Ticket prices range from $14 to $28 per person. Call or check the website for further details. Pumpkin Patch Christ United Methodist Church Bradenton 941-755-2722 http://www.christumc.us/home.htm The Pumpkin Patch opens from Oct. 14-31. Sunday through Friday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Free admission. Pumpkins, baked goods and other items available for purchase. Saturday 11 a.m. -1 p.m., free hot dog and a drink. Call for further details. Sarasota Pumpkin Festival Payne Park in Downtown Sarasota www.sarasotapumpkinfestival.com Friday, Oct. 25, Saturday, October 26th and Sunday, Oct. 27, 12 p.m.-10 p.m. Gate Admission: $7, Parking: $3 donation to non-profit (Kids Force), children 12 & under (free), rides and vendor items have other ticket prices. Call or check the website for further details.