Little Joseph Fastiggi stopped in a field overrun with pumpkins large and small to study one overgrown orange mound that stood nearly waist-high to the freckle-faced 8-year-old. It was perfect.
“Daddy, daddy!” he screeched. “This one! How about this one?”
Wrapping his arms around the pumpkin, Joseph strained to pick up his find before waddling it toward his father for inspection.
Joseph was among the hundreds of children to scour the Tierra Rejada Family Farm in Moorpark on Saturday in search of the perfect pumpkin for a Halloween jack-o'-lantern. Today is the final day of the farm’s Fall Harvest Festival, a celebration of rural living as well as an acknowledgment of Halloween.
“The idea is to try to expose kids to farm life,” said Craig Underwood, co-owner of the farm. “It’s real satisfying to see the kids out here enjoying themselves. I met one family with triplets who said they’ve been out here four weekends in a row.”
Event organizers estimate more than 30,000 people turned out for the second annual event, which began Oct. 2.
Tierra Rejada is a working 70-acre farm that grows a variety of produce, including strawberries, blackberries, peppers, tomatoes, peas and green beans.
And of course, there are the pumpkins. Ranch officials say the farm has been growing pumpkins for eastern Ventura County for more than 20 years.
Lisa and Aaron Tyler of Newbury Park knew the farm was the perfect place to bring their 10-month-old son to pick out his first Halloween pumpkin. Seated comfortably inside the green wheelbarrow his father pushed up and down the fields, blue-eyed Nicholas Tyler beat vigorously on the huge bright orange pumpkin nestled beside him.
“He picked out that one,” Lisa Tyler said. “He likes to pound on it like a drum. So we had to get it.”
For those already past the pumpkin-picking stage, there were other activities to enjoy, including a haunted house, games and a petting zoo. Clydesdale horses also pulled wagons filled with visitors around the pumpkin patch. And a Monster Maze challenged guests to find their way out of a dizzying array of paths.
The festival is at 3370 Moorpark Road in the Tierra Rejada Valley. Admission is free.