by Lorie Lewis Ham
Halloween season is finally upon us and there are a lot of great things to enjoy during this month, whether you are a fan of the scary side of Halloween and head out to Hobb’s Grove, or like less scary options like attending Zoo Boo (watch for an article on this coming soon), fun Halloween crafts at the library, or perhaps heading out to Hillcrest Tree Farm & Railroad to get a pumpkin and enjoy the fun family things they have going on there this time of year. This week we are chatting with one of the owners of Hillcrest, Melissa Bautista, about their Pumpkin Patch.
KRL: How many years has there been a Pumpkin Patch?
Melissa: Well, there was one years ago here, maybe in the 80s, but we started it when we bought the farm in 1992 when my brother in law had grown pumpkins that he had to get rid of!
KRL: What all does the Pumpkin Patch have to offer?
Melissa: We do Pumpkin Patch field trips, mostly for younger elementary and after school programs, home schools, etc. on weekdays, but on weekends we are open to the public. It is free admission, train rides are $3, hayrides are $2, and pumpkins are priced according to size. The farm is open for hiking around, playing at the hillside play area, and of course the most popular pastime, taking photos of the little ones and families.
KRL: Any special events during the time you are open for the Pumpkin Patch?
Melissa: Normally, the third weekend of October, we host the local Antique engine club and they do a great job displaying and explaining their machines. We also, on that weekend, normally run more than one steam engine and train.
KRL: What hours are you open? And what are the dates for the pumpkin patch?
Melissa: We are open to the public all weekends in October from 10-5.
KRL: Do you have food available there as well?
Melissa: We have vendors here who do food, generally, Corndogs, Tri Tip, Shave Ice, Kettle Corn, that type of thing.
KRL: Is there anything new this year?
Melissa: One thing I’ve been getting lots of calls on is “When do Pajama night tickets go on sale” and this year that will be October 12, the second weekend of Pumpkin Patch.
KRL: What is pajama night?
Melissa: It is our only night train event, and it’s like a big Christmas party where people can wear pajamas (warm ones), ride the train, see the lights all along the railroad, have cocoa and cookies by the fire, while enjoying live music. Hot food is also available. It is very popular and requires tickets to be purchased in advance, so sells out pretty quickly.
KRL: What else does Hillcrest offer throughout the year?
Melissa: We are also open for Christmas tree sales daily beginning the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend, with train rides, food, etc. offered on weekends till Christmas. Pajama Christmas, the night train event, will be offered Friday and Saturday nights the first three weekends in December, and always sell out quickly ($15 each, age 2 and up). The other time we are open to the public is during Fresno County Blossom Trail, generally, the first three weekends in March, with the third weekend also being Reedley Railfest… lots of trains and rail fans from all over!
KRL: Anything else you would like to share?
Melissa: In addition to our public open times, we are available for birthday parties and weddings the entire year. You can see some of the details at hillcrestreedley.com.
Janette Slagle has worked at Hillcrest for many years, primarily as a storyteller at the Pumpkin Patch, where she tells the story of Squire Squirrel and Timothy Rabbit to thousands of children each year. One of her favorite things about working there is seeing all the happy faces of children and families. “For me, Pumpkin Patch is not a job. It is a rollercoaster ride to all kinds of memories and enjoyment.”
Julie Cornelson of Reedley, loves taking her family there every October. “We love going to Hillcrest. They don’t do scary stuff and in our book, that is a HUGE deal!!! It is fun to walk on the trails and pick out your pumpkin and walk through the maze. They have a hayride too, but we’ve never been on it.”
So if you are looking for a great family Halloween season place to go, why not head out to the Pumpkin Patch at Hillcrest, just outside of Reedley at 6943 S. Reed. You can learn more on their website hillcrestreedley.com and learn about their Christmas Tree Farm in a past KRL article.