54 HOURS : Great Gourds: It's Harvest Time

"It's dark in there," says 6-year-old Bryan Morales, stone-faced as he pops his head out from an opening in a mountain of straw bales. But it's not that scary, the youngster assures us, as he breathes deeply in the sunlight.

The giant Hay Castle is just one of the farm-based attractions drawing families to Yucaipa, where the Live Oak Canyon Christmas Tree Farm opens its gates for a refreshing taste of the fall season. Greg and Dave Palmer, the brother team that started the farm 15 years ago, let the public pick from their colorful crop of pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn and sunflowers. Visitors get to experience age-old traditions such as hay rides, a petting zoo, and the thrill of choosing and hauling their own pumpkins.

"The kids who come out with their school groups get to know that their pumpkins don't come from a box at Vons," says Kathy Riker, who gives basket-weaving demonstrations on the weekends.

This weekend, in addition to the above free activities that continue daily through Halloween, the Pumpkin Festival Craft Fair will be held at the farm, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. both days. There will be music, craft demonstrations and food.

"We've been coming for years," says Bryan's father, Larry Morales. "It's great fun for the kids."

Pumpkin Patch hours, through Halloween: Saturdays-Sundays, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; weekdays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Corner of I-10 and Live Oak Canyon Road; (909) 795-8733.

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