Buckhorn Pumpkin Festival
Buckhorn (McLean) Pumpkin Festival Re-Visited
by Festival Nomad Correspondent, Kevin Stuart
Images of Autumn
There are certainly a number of images that evoke thoughts of autumn. In particular there is one colour that is often associated with that time of year – orange. It can be seen among other colours on the trees and amongst the plethora of pumpkins one can find during any leisurely drive into the countryside. My family and I especially enjoyed our drive into the Kawarthas towards the bustling village of Buckhorn. Just south of there lies the Buckhorn Berry Farm, formerly the Caza Farm. Now owned by the same family that owns the nearby McLean Berry Farm. Ben, Jenny, Sam, Erin and Jane McLean are carrying on the great tradition of Caza Berry Farm including the Buckhorn Pumpkin Festival. It’s a wonderful family-oriented event that celebrates fall and warms up the Hallowe’en season beginning Thanksgiving weekend and running through October.
Our First Time...
Erin greeted us with her trademark friendly smile and welcoming manner. Since it was our first time at Buckhorn Pumpkin Festival, she was able to direct us as to what to look for and where. Bales of hay were in abundance, often disguising themselves as pigs, spiders and other farm creatures. Many kids tried their hand at the obstacle course.
Enjoying the Pumpkins!
There were plenty of opportunities to enjoy pumpkins on a number of levels. There was pumpkin bowling. Gourds of various sizes could be rolled for a chance to score against the big open-mouthed pumpkin. Perhaps the biggest hit of the event is the Pumpkin Cannon. Visitors can view this spectacle up to six times a day. Ben and his able assistant load in the pumpkins and various other produce and, after a suspenseful countdown, fire their “ammunition” at various targets. Actually, more than hitting targets, the most crowd-pleasing shots are those that go high and far. It really makes the kind of pumpkin smashing we did as kids look small by comparison.
For varying degrees of scariness, try the junior and senior haunted barns. For those who just want some mild ghoulish amusement, the junior barn tour is appropriate for most ages. While my wife hung back, my son and I braved the more fright-filled downstairs haunted barn. With its dark, twisting corridors, eerie sounds and the occasional surprise ghoul, you may not wish to go out in the dark again for a little bit. On the other hand, you may be looking forward even more to Hallowe’en.
Besides frights, this time of the year is filled with magic and that was provided through ventriloquist Tim Holland, also known as the Puppet Tamer. His bag (or trunk) of tricks includes many feisty and colourful creatures to entertain and playfully insult spectators and youthful volunteers. We have seen a number of jugglers and ventriloquists, but he has an added dimension that makes it a truly unique experience which has made him a part of Buckhorn Pumpkin Festival for a number of years.
Of course, scary antics are even more appealing with a touch of humour as evidenced by the many “grave markers” we found on the trail to the corn maze. Even the Freddie Krueger-esque gatekeeper to the maze stopped for a moment to pose for our camera. There is a second maze as well which, if nothing else, offers a nice walk in the crisp autumn air. For those who may have apprehensions about getting lost, an overhead view is always present.
The Pumpkin Patch
Of course, to complete the whole pumpkin theme, we took the wagon ride into the pumpkin patch to pick from thousands of pumpkins and gourds of various sizes, shapes and even colours. The drier than usual 2012 growing season resulted in a smaller crop of pumpkins than in other years but there were still plenty of decent-sized ones from which to choose.
The Grand Finale...
Our final stop was the fruit and vegetable store for some freshly-grown produce and preserves. There are any number of great fall festivals but, if you find yourself anywhere in central Ontario during the month of October, a visit to Buckhorn Berry farm’s Buckhorn Pumpkin Festivalwill provide a few hours of great fall fun.
2010 McLean (Buckhorn) Pumpkin Festival
A Beautiful Fall Day...
It was a warm and crisp sunny fall morning, and we were off to the “Pumpkin Patch” to find Charlie Brown’s allusive “Great Pumpkin”! The McLean Berry Farm had just purchased a new farm and were holding their first McLean Pumpkin Festival. Judi and I had decided to travel the distance to Buckhorn visit the event. A few seasons ago we had visited the McLean Berry Farm for their Buckhorn Maple Syrup Festival and really enjoyed ourselves. Once we reached Buckhorn, we followed the signs until we came to the new farm.
An Amazing Experience...
There was a long line up as we waited our turn to enter the festival grounds. Inside the grounds, we talked with one of the head pumpkins, Erin McLean. Erin greeted us and pointed out some of the attractions that we were going to experience. We followed her directions and walked towards the McLean Pumpkin Festival cemetery. We walked down the row of scary gravestones until we came to the Cemetery's Maze. This was a new experience, especially for Judi. We wound our way through the various maze passages. After traveling and reaching a few dead ends, we managed to find our way to the maze's exit. It really was an “amazing” experience!
The Pumpkin Patch...
After the maze we saw that a wagon was loading up with excited passengers for a trip to the Pumpkin Patch. We hurried over, just in time to climb aboard the “Pumpkin Express”. The ride was very interesting as it took us along various dirt pathways, through open fields and along rows of berries. It eventually took us to the farm's large pumpkin patch. Adults and children from a previous “Pumpkin Express” were in the pumpkin patch looking for the "perfect carving pumpkin" or, perhaps, even Charlie Browns' Great Pumpkin! There was a wide variety of pumpkins in the field, some were very large, some very small, some round, some oblong. A lot to choose from! We could only imagine what carved pumpkin creations would result from these treasures! We, too, looked hard for “Charlie”, his friends, and the “Great Pumpkin” but we couldn’t find them. Oh well, perhaps next year!
More To Experience...
Back in the main festival area, we started to explore other pumpkin attractions. First there was the Pumpkin Cannon. We had just missed its firing by a few minutes. We meandered over to the large haunted barn and took a look inside. From its depths we could hear both howls of surprise and laughter. Festival visitors, especially the kids, were having a great “scary” time! In the upper part of the barn a magic show was about to take place. The stands were filling up with excited families who were ready to be dazzled by the upcoming magic act. As we walked about the festival grounds it was great to see so many people having so much fun! We were now ready to leave the Pumpkin Patch and the McLean Pumpkin Festival, but there was one more activity that we wanted to do. The McLean Berry Farm Market area needed to be investigated!. We just couldn’t leave without a homemade fresh butter tart and a jar or two of McLean's yummy jams. In the store we even got to say hello to the "Head Pumpkin" himself, Sam McLean. We had a great time and we wish Sam and his family much success! We know that all visitors to the McLean Pumpkin Festival's “Great Pumpkin Patch” will really enjoy themselves!