All of the senses are stimulated as one makes their way from the parking lots to the grounds of the Fruitville Grove Pumpkin Festival; the air is a medley of kettle corn, foods fried in Canola oil and a thriving community of farm animals. One might hear discussions of fruit marmalades and apple butters, bleating kids—of both human and goat varieties—or squealing pot-bellied pigs. The eyes are met with shades and hues typical of autumn. A newly covered entrance area, lovingly dubbed the “Pumpkin Palace,” teems with folks in the mood for something that feels like fall.
“You’re not gonna find a perfect pumpkin,” a passerby explained to their child, though one couldn’t have asked for a better day to visit the Pumpkin Festival.
During the weekends of October in Sarasota, the Fruitville Grove Farm Fresh Market celebrates an annual tradition that brings thousands of families and fall-seekers to its grounds. This year marked the 30th annual festival. The cyclical tradition of such a thoroughly planned autumnal event can be appreciated by people of all ages due to its many activities, decorations and—of course—pumpkins.
Kim White, the owner of Fruitville Grove, has organized the event since its creation.
“I thought, maybe I should bring a piece of fall to Florida,” White said.
The available activities, as listed on their website, include: hayrides, pony rides, a butterfly garden, a wildflower maze, inflatable activities, a mini-train ride, a playground, face paint, pumpkin painting, an animal petting zoo, a giant rock wall, a bungee jump area and laser tag. In addition to all of the on-site activities, many local craft vendors sign up every year and offer creations ranging from handmade crafts to woodfired pizza.
During the time of the festival, the market is also open, which has a range of goodies including local preserves, honey and fresh produce. The market’s regular hours are Monday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., and Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
One important thing that the festival-throwers stress is keeping general admission and parking for the festival free, a gratuity that they are able to honor because of the pumpkin sales. Some of the individual rides and activity booths set a price ranging from $2 to $7, such as hugging a goat ($2), going on a hayride ($2) or holding a piglet ($3). The website recommends bringing cash to the event, since some of the vendors do not take credit card payments.
All photos Cait Matthews and Calvin Stumpfhauser/Catalyst.
Mark your calendars! In March, there will be a Berry Festival at the same location: 7410 Fruitville Rd., Sarasota.