By DENNIS WYATT
Elton John has his Rocket Man.
Ron Dell’Osso has the Pumpkin Man.
The Pumpkin Man is one of the newest additions to what is the biggest and most popular family fall destination in the 209 — The Pumpkin Maze at Dell’Osso Family Farm in Lathrop.
Since its inception 22 years ago, the low-tech, high-octane family fun venue has lured more than 3 million visitors with many returning year after year.
It is not by accident the Pumpkin Maze and all of its attractions have the feel of what a 10-year-old kid might plan for fun if you pulled them away from electronic devices. The Dell’Osso Family Farm attractions —from the pumpkin blasters when you can use bazooka style devices to launch mini-gourds at speeds approaching 100 mph at various targets to the new Pirate interactive show for kids — is all inspired by the fun Ron and his childhood pals had while growing up on the land he farms today as well as the portion he and his wife Susan have set aside as the perfect antidote to high tech entertainment.
Kids can climb tire mountains, make their way through the largest corn maze in the 209, get their share of scary fun in the haunted castle, ride a train, walk the plank, frolic in kids’ play zone, enjoy duck races, watch pig races, race pedal cars, spin on pumpkins, take a hay ride, bounce on pillows and do a wide array of activities included in the general admission including one of the new attractions — The Rat Roller.
The Rat Roller involves getting in a large pipe on rails and then running so you roll like a rat.
New this year besides the Rat Roller, the Pumpkin Man, and interactive children’s pirate shows is the conversion of the country store into a bakery where you can see tasty creations such as apple spice doughnuts made from scratch. The bakery also provides the fresh dough that allows a new food offering – homemade pizza – available on the “island” where the pirate shows take place along with free entertainment. This is where you will also find the all new Cider Hill that offers hard cider, craft beer, and sparkling cider.
There are several attractions not included in the general admission. They are zip lines ($8 to $12), gem mining ($6), pony rides ($7), pumpkin painting ($5), and pumpkin blasters ($6).
There is also a food court as well as seasonal gift items for sale.
The Pumpkin Maze opens Saturday, Sept. 29, and runs through Wednesday, Oct. 31. First entry is at 10 a.m. with the last entry at 8 p.m.
General admission Monday through Thursday is $14.95 while Friday through Sunday it’s $18.95. Children 2 and under are free. The early bird special Monday through Friday for those entering before 2 p.m. is $11.95. They are offering a season pass this year (good from Sept. 29 — Oct. 31) for $49.95. Lathrop residents with ID can secure a season pass for $44.95.
Opening weekend is always the best bet for locals. It’s before the big crowds from the Bay Area pour in. Weekdays aren’t too shabby either when it comes to crowds but if a weekend is the only time you can work a visit in you definitely will want to drop by The Farm either Saturday, Sept. 29, or Sunday, Sept. 30.
It should be noted that weeknights have grown in popularity as date nights for the young and young at heart.
Parking is free.
To reach The Farm take the Manthey Road exit on Interstate 5 between the 120 Bypass and Interstate 205.
For more information go to pumpkinmaze.com.