SHELBY COUNTY, Ala. (WIAT)– It’s the first week of October, which means pumpkin picking season is officially here and pumpkin patches across central Alabama are preparing their venues for fall festivities.
Venues like Helena Hollow said there is a lot more that goes into the making of a pumpkin patch here in Alabama than one might think.
Co-owner Amy Griffin said they place their focus on providing families with lasting memories, farming adventure and entertainment, rather than crops and pumpkins.
This is largely because of Alabama weather conditions. She said it’s very difficult to grow their own because they tend to rot quickly in the Alabama heat. Griffin said they bring in thousands of pumpkins each week from Michigan to place in their patch.
“We typically can’t put them out any earlier than a Tuesday and we have to do it weekly,” said Griffin. “We can’t put them out for a whole season all at once and we have to keep them in the shade until the very last second possible just to keep them in that climate they like.
“A lot of times we have to go out and we have a water truck, and we water the pumpkins, so they get enough moisture to stay cool. Just like you would yourself. I mean, they need all the things a human needs in this weather.”
At the end of October, left over pumpkins are fed to their animals on site and preparations for next year start all over again.
The Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum in Calera also hosts an event called Pumpkin Junction the first three weekends in October. It’s a unique destination for a pumpkin patch you can only access with a train ride to Ozan Winery.
Pumpkin Junction was named number three on USA Today’s list of top 10 patches to pick a pumpkin from in the entire country.
Special events coordinator Lindsay Barnett said the weekend events they host like Pumpkin Junction keep them running but it takes a lot of hard work to prepare for.
As a non-profit organization, she said it’s truly a team effort made possible with their volunteers.
“The people that come and run the train, man the train, staff the event, serve all of our kids up to seniors are people that just love the event,” said Barnett. “They either love trains or just love people, and so it’s really nice to have people who love what they do serving throughout the weekend. We’re very pleased and proud of our volunteers.”
While Helena Hollow hosts multiple events throughout the year, Griffin said October is their peak season- their bread and butter- which helps provide for her family’s needs for the entire year.
Alongside school field trips, she said they see tons of families coming from in and out of state each weekend in October.
Barnett said their revenue from Pumpkin Junction helps them continue their mission of preserving the history of railroading in the south.
To keep visitors coming back both venues said they get innovative with experiences and activities they offer such as yard games, inflatables and wine tastings at Pumpkin Junction.
“A lot of our visitors are repeats,” said Barnett. “They came one year with their oldest, they come back with their middles and their youngest. We get to see the generations keep coming back and that’s a really special experience.”
Helena Hollow gets innovative by adding ziplining, a petting zoo and giant slides.
“I will always remember going to the pumpkin patch and I’ll always remember when my husband and I first started dating that was something we did together, and it’s just really cool to be able to give that experience not only to our children but to see other people enjoying it with their families,” said Griffin. “It truly makes it worthwhile.”