What once started as two students selling about 1,500 pumpkins many years ago has turned into the hugely popular Cal Poly Pomona Pumpkin Festival. In one October weekend, about 65,000 visitors come to the Farm’s Store’s 9-acre field to pick from more than 120,000 pumpkins.
While the festival has grown by leaps and bounds, the organizing team is still small. The trio includes Farm Store manager Dawn Taccone, AGRIscapes coordinator Brenda Orozco, and Shonnie Crane, financial manager of the Farm store. Their preparation starts as early as June, and they don’t rest until the Farm Store closes at 5 p.m.
However, Taccone say it’s not just a team of three. The festival has about 200 volunteers, in addition to the dozens of vendors and student clubs that sell food or crafts, host games and provide entertainment.
“We’re able to manage it, but without everyone else we wouldn’t be able to put it on,” Taccone says. “It’s a group effort.”
The Pumpkin Festival provides affordable family fun.
“People have told me it’s amazing because it’s more authentic than hay strewn around a parking lot,” Orozco says. Each pumpkin in the field is sold for $5, which is less than they are usually offered at parking lot pumpkin patches elsewhere. In addition to the patch, visitors enjoy the corn maze and petting zoo, as well as shop for gifts and fresh produce in the store.
Even though the Pumpkin Festival itself only lasts two days, people come to the Farm store all month long – about 115,000 throughout the month of October. The Farm Store sends out 5,000 post cards, and social media has become a powerful marketing tool in bringing new guests.
“It’s like Black Friday every day,” Taccone says. “Until October 31st at 5, this place is pumping. It’s crazy how many people come through these doors.”
Despite the huge crowds, the main trio enjoy holding an event that thousands consider a personal family tradition.
“There’s one lady who told me she’s been taking her daughter since she was born and now she’s bringing her grandchildren,” Taccone says. “She has the shirts from every year.”
Throughout the month of October, Orozco also gives tours to various groups, ranging from schools to Boy Scouts.
“I love seeing the kids get off the school bus, their faces light up and they say ‘Oh, Wow!’ when they see the field,” Orozco says. “Then they’ll get back on the bus with their pumpkin, and they’re waving at me, and then I wave back. It’s so fun. That’s my favorite part.”
Taccone says that by last day of the festival, most of the problems have been fixed, and they’re able to relax and enjoy the fun of the Festival. “It has a fantastic energy about it,” she says.
Crane agrees, adding: “It’s such a good vibe, the whole thing. It’s great to see everyone work together.”