I confess, behind this mild-mannered Patch columnist identity I have a secret.
I am also an author.
Quite a stretch, eh?
What inspired me to put down the reporter's notepad and pen and pick up ... well, a three-ring binder and pen?
Only my all-time favorite Rochester event, The Stonewall Pumpkin Festival.
The Stonewall Pumpkin Festival has been taking place at the Rochester Hills Museum at Van Hoosen Farm since 2001.
And yet to my great surprise, some families still don't know about it. So here is the breakdown on what you need to know:
- The festival takes place Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can come anytime between those hours.
- When you arrive, pay a parking attendant $7 per person and park your car. Down by the parking area is a giant pumpkin patch containing more than 2,100 pumpkins! (Do I hear "photo op?") Pick out your pumpkin and make your way to the driveway to catch a hayride up to the farm house.
- At the farmhouse you'll find covered tents with all the equipment you need to make a jack 'o lantern masterpiece. There are carving patterns, knives and gut scoopers. There are also large trash cans and a hose for cleaning off afterward! (Due to demand, guests are encouraged to bring their own carving tools from home.)
- Once your pumpkin piece of art is complete, you place it on the stone wall surrounding the farm. (Don't worry, you get to pick it up tomorrow to take home.)
- Now with your work done — and hey, how great is it that you didn't make that mess in your kitchen? — you can move on to the fun!
Wholesome family fun
There is a whole lot of fun to be had at the Pumpkin Festival and it's all included in your entrance fee.
First, give there's the Pioneer Playground provided by the Friends of Dinosaur Hill Nature Preserve. It includes stilts, marbles, jump rope and gourd bowling. Kids can also put on pioneer clothes and enjoy games, crafts and chores from 150 years ago — like churning butter, beating rugs, making (and throwing) bean bags. Other activities include finding eggs in a haystack and grinding corn into corn meal.
Paint Creek Center for the Arts will be on hand to help children with a make-and-take art project.
Hayrides, a hay jump, a scarecrow exhibit and museum tours are also part of the fun.
Ready for a break?
If you're ready for a little quiet time after all those activities, the festival has that, too.
Maybe it's time to get some lunch or a snack from one of the food vendors. Yates Cider Mill will be on hand with cider and donuts. There will also be hot dogs, bratwurst, chips, pop, candy and kettle corn for sale.
With food in hand, grab some grass near the gazebo and prepare to be entertained.
- You can visit the gazebo at noon to hear me read that book I was telling you about.
- At 12:15 North Hill student
- At 1 p.m. there will be musical performaces by Guy Louis and his Autumn Americana Music Review and the group Two Tails.
Night of 1,000 Pumpkins
To me, the most magical part of the festival comes at night, when all the pumpkins are lit.
The story is my fictionalized account of how the Stonewall Festival began. It includes three brave children, a misunderstood but generous farmer and a whole lot of pumpkins.
It started out as a bedtime story for my children. It then became an email to museum director Pat McKay and finally — after a little education on how to self-publish — an actual book. The book is sold in the museum gift shop and at the event with all proceeds going to the museum.
I read it every year at the festival so kids can hear the story and then go knock on the Pumpkin Man's door themselves.
(He has yet to answer.)
The magic of the night
If you've never seen more than 1,000 jack o' lanterns all lit up at once, you owe yourself. It's beautiful and magical.
The night portion of the festival takes place from 7 to 9 p.m.
Guests park their cars and walk along the stone wall to view the pumpkins.
There is no charge, but the museum asks for canned food donations or gently used gloves and hats to share with the Rochester Area Neighborhood House.
"We want people to come to fill up the pantry," McKay said. "Using this event to feed the hungry is part of the magic, too."