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JAUNTS : Patching Together a Great Experience : Local pumpkin purveyors offer a wide variety of entertainment--from haunted houses to hayrides and music.


If you're in search of the great pumpkin, you'll find a lot more than just pumpkins at the pumpkin patches around the county these days. Hauling away one of the gorgeous gourds is almost a gala event.

Perhaps the biggest pumpkin extravaganza is being served up this weekend and next at the McGrath Street Pumpkin Patch in Ventura. There you'll find everything from a haunted house to spooky storytellers and nonstop live entertainment.

The open classroom program at Ventura's Blanche Reynolds Elementary School is taking over part of the McGrath patch this year for its "Pumpkin Moon Faire." The festivities run this Saturday and Sunday, and Oct. 29 and 30.

The haunted house, for kids 10 and younger, will be set up in a moving van loaned to the school by Allied Van Lines, according to one of the parent organizers, Sydney Harris. Students in the open classrooms are designing the interior with ghoulish touches, like gigantic spider webs and spiders.

Craft booths will be set up where children can make trick-or-treat bags or masks, paint pumpkins, get their faces painted and their hair sprayed in Halloween colors.

The school is hauling in a mobile stage for the musical entertainment that includes folk, country, blues and rock 'n' roll bands, along with a magician/juggler, and six storytellers from Ventura Storytellers. The food lineup includes chili made by a Blanche Reynolds parent, candy apples and pumpkin bread. On Oct. 30, there will be a drawing for trips and other prizes.

There is no charge for admission to the fair, but the school is charging for the booth crafts, the haunted house and some other activities. Proceeds from the fair will benefit the school's open classroom program.

Of course, if you simply want a pumpkin or winter squash or maybe Indian corn, the McGrath Street Pumpkin Patch, open daily, has its usual harvest, along with free hayrides and petting zoo with goats, horses and rabbits.

Here's what's going on at other major pumpkin patches around the county:

Faulkner Farm--Here you'll find seven acres of pumpkins to choose from, some over 200 pounds, along with winter squash, Indian corn, mini pumpkins and gourds. Hayrides are $2, Model T rides $1. Kids can see farm animals. The Old Country Trio Plus One entertains on weekends, noon to 4 p.m. Pumpkin bread and cookies are on sale. Adults can eat pie on the porch of the restored Victorian Faulkner home on Saturdays and Sundays from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Located at Briggs and Telegraph roads, near Santa Paula. Open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Information: 525-9293.

Tierra Rejada Ranch--Pumpkins are scattered over seven acres here too, but the large ones are not gigantic. Wagon rides at half-hour intervals are free. Farm animals are out for viewing, and for $2, kids can take a pony ride. Tierra Rejada is also a pick-your-own produce farm, and some vegetables--tomatoes, green beans, cucumbers and peppers--are ripe for picking now. The farm's produce stand also is open. Located at 3370 Moorpark Road, Moorpark. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Information: 529-3690.

Boccali Ranch--If you want a more pastoral pumpkin experience, this spot tucked between Ojai and Santa Paula is the one. Its two acres of pumpkins include miniatures that cost 50 cents, up to 100-pounders in the $25 range, as well as gourds and Indian corn. Free hayrides run on the weekends. Located on Highway 150, midway between the two cities. Open daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Information: 647-3300.


* WHAT: Pumpkin Moon Faire

* WHERE: McGrath Street Pumpkin Patch, on McGrath Street near the intersection of Knoll Drive and Valentine Road in Ventura.

* WHEN: Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Oct. 29, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Oct. 30, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

* HOW MUCH: No admission charge; charge for haunted house and other activities.

* CALL: 658-9972.

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