California Project: Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch
Growing up in Reedley, it was almost an inevitability that I would go to the Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch with my classmates at least once. In fact, I went twice- once in preschool, and once in kindergarten. It is hard to think of a child in Reedley, or the surrounding area, who did not go visit Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch. The many, many acres of rolling grass, the seemingly endless supply of pumpkins, the “choo choo trains” that traverse the entire property- what’s not to love?
Returning to the pumpkin patch eleven years later, I still am of the opinion that there is nothing not to love. Except maybe the parking. The parking is not to love, especially as someone who now had to park the car themselves. However, this was admitted even by Melissa Bautista, who is one of the owners of Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch. Instead of the traditional sit-down interview, I stood and walked with Melissa as she worked with those around her to help moderate traffic in the upper parking lot(s).
On my way to find Melissa for this interview, however, I gave myself the chance to run around the pumpkin patch, starting in the green, grassy grove where one could wait for tractor-pulled hayrides in one area, sit at picnic tables and eat in another, and finally, enter a corn maze. Heading up the stairs and paths to the upper portion of the pumpkin patch (upper because it’s up the hill), the first thing that became clear was the line for the train station, and the food trucks.
Food trucks carried food such as churros, tacos, and other quick food items which customers could pick up for either lunch or a snack. I picked up a $3 churro, and kept moving. On the other side of the food trucks, there was a mini golf course with many people playing on it, so I kept moving towards the train station. The train holds fond memories for me- “choo choo trains” are always fun to ride, and sure enough, people of all ages seemed to be enjoying the attraction, after they got to the end of a very long line for tickets.
After I passed the train station and took a picture inside of a metal version of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, I made my way back down to the lower portion of the pumpkin patch. I crossed a rope and wood bridge that swung back and forth, which terrified me when I was younger (I refuse to comment on whether or not it still scares me. Don’t ask.). Walking warily through a dark wooden tunnel, I finally arrived at the corn maze.
Making my way into the corn maze, I quickly felt safe as I realized that yes I might get lost, but this was not a corn maze that I would get scared within. Despite the realization I “might” get lost, I had an upper hand because I saw the exit of the small corn maze when I walked in. Using my sense of direction, I made my way in the direction I knew I needed to go and was out within five minutes.
Finally, the entire reason the pumpkin patch exists to begin with: the pumpkins. There were pumpkins of every type and for every person who wanted one. My favorite part of being in the area that held the pumpkins though was seeing the families and the children running around picking their pumpkins. Everywhere I looked was a younger child looking up at mom or dad saying, “I found a pumpkin! I found a pumpkin!”. Their smiles and their energy seemed to spread to everyone in the area, and made it impossible to not feel even the slightest bit joyful.
I believe that these last couple of sentences might best capture my sentiments on the Hillcrest Pumpkin Patch- though the entire attraction is a joy to experience and be a part of, it is the joy and the happiness of those who visit it that brings it to life. From the trains to the food, the hayrides to the pumpkins, the beauty of the Central Valley in autumn and the Halloween season sparkles bright within the property. To see it, you don’t have to look any further than the people running around the several acres of pumpkins and food trucks and entertainment- and hopefully, you stop just looking and join in the fun yourself!