By Rich Place

Autumn is on its way and that means Pumpkinville is ready to open for the season.

After all, the well-known stop for all things pumpkin — and plenty of other fall-themed attractions — will celebrate its 50th year when it opens for the season on Saturday and remains open daily through Halloween.

Pumpkinville was originally opened in 1968 by Joseph and Helen Holloran, who started it outside their home nearby on Route 98. Dan and Diane Pawlowski have operated Pumpkinville from their 200-acre farm on Sugartown Road for 23 years after purchasing it from the family.

“It doesn’t seem that long ago and sometimes it seems like we’ve done it forever,” Dan said at the farm on Tuesday while preparing for the upcoming season.

Among a handful of new attractions, a new event at Pumpkinville this year will be its inaugural Sunflower Festival, scheduled for the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23. During those two days, the public is encouraged to come and pick sunflowers or purchase pre-picked bundles with proceeds benefiting the Pink Pumpkin Project, an Olean-based organization which provides support for those undergoing breast cancer treatments.

“Whatever we get, 100 percent goes to them,” Dan said. “This area has been really, really good to us. This is an opportunity for us to give back to something that has a really, really worthy cause.”

Dan said he hopes to expand the sunflower event annually but wanted to see first how well the sunflowers would grow at the farm.

“I wasn’t sure how good I’d be at growing sunflowers,” he admitted while looking at the several rows on the property. “We’ll have plenty and we are excited about it. But we’ll also try and get our timing even better next year.”

Along with the sunflowers, Pumpkinville will unveil a number of new attractions this season, perhaps most notably giant children’s slides on a hill and a new section called the Barnyard Ball Zone. There’s also a new permanent restroom facility that replaces numerous portables.

All the new items on the property will join traditional favorites — whether it’s the cider mill and corn maze that have existed on the farm for years or the newer attractions like the jumping pillows or the apple blasters.

And, of course, there will be a wide selection of pumpkins, a harvest that Dan is happy about.

“We’re just getting the first few ones in but we think they look good,” he said as employees placed recently picked pumpkins on the lawn. “They’ve got good handles on them, they are good and orange and they are ripe.”

He said pumpkins like it hot, so this summer was good for the crop.

The Pawlowskis continue to improve Pumpkinville each year since they purchased the business. Obviously, pumpkins have always been a longstanding attraction for the farm but so has the food and cider mill, Dan said.

“The crop was the mainstay,” he said. “Now we sell a lot of pumpkins, don’t get me wrong, but where we stand out is all this entertainment. The jumping pillows, the corn maze, the train, now this new playground, stuff like that. Those are what have stepped us out away from someone selling pumpkins on the side of the road.”

When the Pawlowskis first purchased the business they added some food and hayrides right away, he said, and essentially each year add some new entertainment.

“(Visitors) are looking to do something,” Dan said. “They are looking to have fun and to have an experience. You work hard to try and keep prices as friendly as you can.”

The Pawlowskis invited members of the Holloran family to visit the farm this year for the 50th anniversary, and there is potential the original owners’ sons, Tom and Dan Holloran, who live in the midwest, plan to attend for a week in October, Dan said.

He also noted this year that a handful of corporate sponsors are part of the season at Pumpkinville. LandPro Equipment will have some items on display at the farm, Ellicottville Brewing Company is brewing a special beer to mark the 50th anniversary and Shults Resale Group has special giveaways planned as well.

Pumpkinville is open daily through Halloween from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. It’s located at 4844 Sugartown Road in Great Valley, just off Route 98.

(Right) Sunflowers begin to blossom at Pumpkinville in anticipation of the Sunflower Festival on Sept. 22 & 23. Photo by Rich Place.