Haunted by a need to celebrate the changing season?
The region will have you covered with a supply of Halloween and harvest activities to help scare up some fall fun.
Halloween has become one of the biggest commercial celebrations of the year, with retailers filling stores with decorations, party supplies and – clearly – candy galore. According to the National Retail Federation, $8.4 billion is projected to be spent on Halloween in the United States this year, the highest amount in history, with consumers expected to fork out an average of $82.93, up from last year’s $74.34.
The group also projects more than 171 million Americans plan to enjoy Halloween festivities over the next month. Locally, many of those revelers will do their enjoying at one or more of the several activity-filled fields of screams – be those yelps of delight or blood-curdling cries – popping up in the Modesto region.
Activity-filled is the key at Dell’Osso Family Farm in Lathrop, which will fete its 20th year offering ever-expanding Halloween tricks and treats beginning next Saturday, according to marketing director Yvonne Sampson. To help mark that anniversary, Dell’Osso has added four new attractions: giant orbs, a giant slide, a ball-toss arena and lawn games.
Those orbs are double-insulated “giant human hamster balls that look like big orange giant pumpkins,” Sampson said. Participants climb inside the jack-o-lantern-faced orbs and challenge each other in “great pumpkin races” across the field.
The farm also has expanded its lakes – with nonpotable irrigation water, Sampson pointed out – tree areas and pathways to better serve customers.
In addition to the new features, the centerpiece on the 300-acre farm is the massive corn maze – actually three mazes within one – offering easy, medium and challenging tests of people’s puzzle-solving escape skills.
“There’s been such an amazing change,” Sampson said of Dell’Osso’s attractions this year. “We’re excited about it.”
Expansion also is the name of the harvest game at Dutch Hollow Farms, on the Modesto-Riverbank border at Oakdale and Claribel roads. An expanded corn maze pays homage to the Golden State Warriors basketball team of Oakland, with the faces of Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry etched into a 10-acre field, according to farm owner John Bos.
“We’re legit this year,” Bos said of his farm’s expansion to nearly 20 total acres of seasonal activities.
Dutch Hollow also is celebrating an anniversary this year, its 10th. Bos said a special lunch will be offered on Halloween day as a thank-you for supporting the farm over the past decade.
“The first year we were Pumpkin World,” Bos said. “(Now) we wanted to be able to cater to everyone and not just a smaller demographic.”
To help do that, the pick-your-own pumpkin field has been moved closer to the activity center, which opened up more space for the larger, more elaborate corn maze. The pumpkin patch is open beginning today while the rest of activities will begin next Saturday.
Where else can you go that a family can take pictures with that farm feel? Right now, I’m staring at a chicken walking by the hay bales (near) the pumpkins.
Dutch Hollow Farms owner John Bos on the old-school farm feel at his locale
Speaking of elaborate corn mazes, folks at Fantozzi Farms in Patterson have gotten into not just the Halloween spirit, but the spirit of the election season, as well. The giant corn maze there has been carved out to reflect the faces of presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, imposed over a view of the White House.
The election theme is geared to the many school tours that visit the farm each fall, according to Denise Fantozzi. The farm always has educational farming displays, but the Fantozzis decided to tap into current events by adding a presidential lesson to the mix, with trivia, information on the election process and steps to becoming president.
“I’m always looking for ways to teach kids in fun ways,” said Fantozzi, a seventh-grade teacher in Gustine. “We have a lot of kids who come out, and it’s a good way to give them an education on our election process and have a little fun with trivia.”
The displays and trivia also are available to the public.
Fantozzi Farms also has a new zombie shooting range this year, a haunted room where paintball-armed people can shoot at roaming zombies as well as targets, along with a host of other harvest-season fun. And that corn maze becomes haunted after dark on Fridays and Saturdays.
Head to Turlock’s R.A.M. Farms after dusk on Friday and Saturday nights beginning next weekend and enjoy free kid-friendly films under the stars, a new feature added this year.
R.A.M. Farms co-owner Karen Macedo said her daughter came up with the idea to offer the free films. The 12 movies will be shown at the farm’s educational study trip area, weather permitting, and include such favorites as “Monsters, Inc.,” “The Goonies,” “Goosebumps,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas” and “Frozen.” Patrons should bring a blanket for viewing on chilly evenings.
R.A.M. Farms, an educational study area, will host about 2,000 schoolchildren this year, Macedo said, with the Turlock Unified School District designating the farm a study trip locale. Students will get lessons on how corn is grown for area dairies as well as other county ag products.
The designation points to the farm’s outreach to “be good neighbors” in the community, Macedo said. “We have gotten a lot of good feedback from the community and we’re happy to be here.”
Here are more details on this year’s Halloween and harvest fun:
Dell’Osso Family Farm – Oct. 1-31: Celebrating its 20th anniversary, the farm presents its annual pumpkin maze with a new design for 2016, actually three corn mazes within one maze. Other attractions on the 300-acre pumpkin farm include zip lines, giant pumpkin orb races, a giant slide, a ball toss arena, lawn games, pumpkin blasters, a haunted house, kids zone, rides, food court and pumpkin patches. 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. 26 W. Stewart Road, Lathrop. Admission Mondays-Thursdays is $13.95, Fridays-Sundays $17.95; early bird Mondays-Fridays (before 2 p.m.) is $10. There are a few attractions not included with general admission at an additional $5 to $7. See pumpkinmaze.com.
Dutch Hollow Farms – Today (limited)-Oct. 31: The pumpkin patch opens today with the rest of the activities opening next Saturday. The farm has a large pumpkin patch, a picnic area, kids’ play area and farm animals. There’s a 10-acre maze, a corn maze with a farm scene investigation game, along with hayrides, Farmer John’s Animal Area, corn pit for kids to play in and more. Admission to the patch is free; $4 for farm-area activities and $6 for the giant corn maze with an $8 combo pack for all. A season pass option is to be announced. 9 a.m.-8 p.m. daily. 5101 Oakdale Road, Modesto; 209-541-7448. dutchhollowfarms.com.
Fantozzi Farms – Oct. 1-31: The corn mazes at this Patterson farm cover about 25 acres and include more than six miles of paths. Within the mazes are 12 hidden checkpoints and guests who find all 12 get a free pumpkin. A haunted maze is open Friday and Saturday nights from 7 p.m. until closing (take a flashlight), geared mainly to ages 8 and up. Other attractions include a pedal car raceway, hay bale labyrinth, pipe slides, corn cannons, cow train rides, a petting zoo, hayrides, a corn seed pit, hay pyramids, a picnic area and pig races. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sundays; open daily the last week of October, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Parking and access to the pumpkin patch are free; admission to activities range from $5 to $12. 2665 Sperry Ave., Patterson. 209-892-2015; fantozzifarms.com.
R.A.M. Farms – Today (limited)-Oct. 31: The pumpkin patch and activities opened Friday and the 20-acre corn maze will open Friday. Freaky Flashlight Nights on Fridays and Saturdays will be offered (bring your own flashlight) beginning at dusk. Free movies under the stars (weather permitting) on Fridays and Saturdays begin Friday , with films also Sunday, Oct. 30, and Monday, Oct. 31. Also on site are a scary shed, corn hole games, pumpkin bowling, pedal tractors, hay maze and more. There are 40 varieties of pumpkins and gourds on the farm, and wandering the patch is free. Maze tickets are $7 to $11. Open noon to dusk Mondays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sundays. R.A.M. Farms Inc., 716 N. Daubenberger Road, Turlock. 209-668-2425 or ramfarms.com.
For a quick visit, a couple of local farm stands offer smaller-scale options, geared mainly for younger children:
Rodin Farms – Today through Oct. 31: Pumpkins aplenty are offered as well as a straw-bale maze for kids to wind their way through and a darkened hay tunnel awaiting those who want a spooky tour. On weekends, there are arts and crafts set up for kids and a corn box to play in. 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. All activities are free. Corner of Oakdale and Claribel roads, Modesto. www.rodinfarms.com.
Resendiz Fruit Barn – Oct. 1-Oct. 31: This farm in Hughson offers a pumpkin patch and hay maze daily, 6 a.m.-8 p.m., with more events on weekends, including pony rides, bounce house, train rides and a tricycle track. $4 to $6 for activities. 4342 Geer Road, Hughson; resendizfruitbarn.com.
Pat Clark: 209-578-2312