In Warren, R.I., all pumpkin is great
WARREN, R.I. - Linus spent his entire cartoon career waiting to see The Great Pumpkin.
He might have had a better shot at it if he had hung out at Frerichs Farm on the Kickemuit River, which for the past eight years has been an official international weighing station for great - as in big - pumpkins. Last year, Ron Wallace of Greene set a world record with a 1,470-pound behemoth.
Every weekend in October, besides the official pumpkin weighing on Columbus Day weekend, the Frerichs host Pumpkin Palooza, a celebration of all things pumpkin.
"It's very much a family event. Little kids especially love it," said David Frerichs, who with his wife, Barbara, has run the retail nursery and farm since 1986. "We started it last year, and it was a huge success."
There is, of course, a Great Pumpkin Patch, with wooden figurines of Charlie Brown and other Peanuts characters in the midst of a bunch of small pumpkins, a corn maze for children and adults, a flower maze for toddlers, and Windy River Junction, a faux Western town with such attractions as panning for gold (corn kernels) and a Native American tepee.
It's all free, save for a $1 fee for a pumpkin coach ride around the property, with the money donated to the Autism Project of Rhode Island - the family's pet charity, owing to the fact that one of the grandchildren has autism. The last two Fridays of October are Bring Your Own Flashlight (BYOF) nights, when the property remains open late and visitors are free to roam about with flashlights to raise their personal level of dread as high as they can stand by shining light on things that may go bump in the night.
Just for fun, Frerichs has built a pumpkin catapult, a gigantic slingshot of sorts with which he fires pumpkins into fields to the delight of children. And for those enamored of the idea of good, clean, messy fun, he's been known to haul large pumpkins up on a rented crane and drop them, with onlookers cheering the resulting explosion of pumpkin flesh and seeds.
When not hosting pumpkin fests, Frerichs is a nursery that sells annuals, perennials, and vegetable plants. Later this fall, the farm's gift shop, which opened in 1995, will be decked out for the holiday season, and on Nov. 7, a Girls Night Out is scheduled for those who want a sneak peak at gift possibilities. Nov. 28-30 is the farm's annual holiday open house when Christmas trees, wreaths, and other holiday decorations go on sale.
The farm closes from January to March, when it starts planting for spring in 11 greenhouses.
This time of year, however, it's all pumpkins, all the time. And for those who pooh-pooh promulgating prodigious pumpkins as a lark, think about this: Owners of the monsters can sell their seeds for up to $800 - for a single seed.
If Linus only knew.
Paul E. Kandarian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.