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East County Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009 11 years ago

Hunsader Farms primed for annual pumpkin party

by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

MANATEE COUNTY — As Halloween approaches, the smell and savor of pumpkins is in the air — quite literally — at Hunsader Farms.

Whether pumpkins are being shot out of a cannon or mounded in heaps for purchase or display, East County families can enjoy the thrill of this year’s Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 24-25.

“For the ability to go out and spend an entire day, for the money, it’s the best entertainment value anywhere,” event co-organizer Trish Hunsader said. “It’s all wholesome entertainment. The bands laugh because they know there are certain songs they aren’t allowed to play on our stage. You can go out there and know that everything is going to be appropriate (for families). It’s still less than a movie to walk in the door.”

Admission includes access to performances such as the Walker Brothers Circus and freestyle motocross and BMX bike stunt shows as well as activities such as frog-jumping championships, a petting zoo, a children’s train ride, charity children’s games, more than 100 craft booths, a fresh produce market and hayrides, among others.

New to the stage this year are the Kountry K-9 Super Dog Show, which features skits performed by canines, and a magic show by Paul Esterline.

Families can enjoy the sounds of groups such as the Night Train Country Band, Wild Turkey Band, the Sweeney Family Band and Old Time Music with Ed & Geraldine, while munching on roasted sweet corn, funnel cakes, barbecue and other festival delicacies.

“As I worked on the schedule this year, it occurred to me that it kind of ends up being like Sea World,” Hunsader said. “To really be able to see and do everything, you need to get there early, look at the schedule and kind of map out your day.”

There are additional charges for some activities, including pony rides and bounce houses.

Charity Pumpkin Games, which are children’s games run by local non-profit organizations, each cost $1 to play, and 100% of the proceeds benefit the non-profit organization running that game.

Charity game organizer Jim Baar said nine groups will work two games each, allowing each organization hopefully to raise more than $2,000.

“Over the past 18 years, they have raised an estimated combined total of more than $275,000 from just these games, all of which has all gone to the charities,” Baar said. “The Hunsader family donates all the prizes. The groups just have to man (the games) during the festival and collect the proceeds.”

And on the final day of the festival, a costume contest for children ages infant to 10 years old will be held. The event starts at 1 p.m. Winners will be selected for each age group. Once judging is finished, children and their parents will be able to meander the farm for trick-or-treating.

“There’s at least 100 stops,” Hunsader said. “Everywhere you look, you will find spots where kids can trick-or-treat.”

Considering the festival is now in its 18th year and the downturn in the economy, Hunsader said organizers have questioned whether they should reinvent the wheel and try something new. But in the end, this year, as every other, they decided to keep the same festival formula they’ve perfected, spicing up activities with new shows and bands.

“We like to shake it up a bit, change a few things, but there are a few things people come for, and we want to make sure people experience what they love,” Hunsader said. “The purpose of why we created the festival in the first place and the thing that constantly guides our decision making in what to include and what not to include is family. Our kids are totally involved in all we do with the festival and what we do at the farm. We always work to make sure this festival is something they want to bring their kids and their grandkids to.”

For a downloadable schedule of events, click here.

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].

WHEN: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Oct. 16-18 and Oct. 24-25
WHERE: 5500 C.R. 675, Bradenton
COST: Admission for the day is $7; children 12 and under are free. Parking is $4 per vehicle. Fee covers all shows, but there are charges for some activities.

Daily festival events include frog jumping championships, children’s games, a magic show and hourly shootings of the pumpkin cannon in the west field and music by groups such as Night Train Country Band, Florida Mountain Boys and the Sweeney Family Band, among other activities.
Here are some highlights for each day of the festival:

Friday, Oct. 16
Walker Brothers Circus

Saturday, Oct. 17
Kountry K-9 Super Dog Show
BMX Bike Stunt Show
Walker Brothers Circus

Sunday, Oct. 18
Kountry K-9 Super Dog Show
BMX Bike Stunt Show
Walker Brothers Circus
Classic Car Show

Saturday, Oct. 24
Kountry K-9 Super Dog Show
Buddy Walk
Freestyle Motoross Stunt Show
Walker Brothers Circus

Sunday, Oct. 25
Children’s Costume Contest
Children’s Trick or Treat
Kountry K-9 Super Dog Show
Remote Control Airplanes
Freestyle Motocross Stunt Show
Walker Brothers Circus

Charity Pumpkin Games Participants
Manasota B.U.D.S. (Bringing Up Down Syndrome)
Children’s Haven and Adult Community Services
Special Olympics
Family Network on Disabilities
Foundation for Dreams, Dream Oaks Camp
Sarasota Manatee Association for Riding Therapy
SOLVE Maternity Home
Manatee EMS Auxiliary

Manasota BUDS lace up for annual walk
The Eighth Annual Buddy Walk will be held Oct. 24 at Hunsader Farms during the Pumpkin Festival.

Registration for walkers will begin at 9 a.m., but the walk will start at 11 a.m. A $20 registration fee for adults or $35 for families of up to two parents and three children includes admission to the Pumpkin Festival and an official Buddy Walk T-shirt.

“Being able to hold the Buddy Walk during the festival has provided a great venue to help raise the awareness of children with Down syndrome,” event organizer Jim Baar said. “This is our main fundraiser for our organization, which has helped or provided support to over 100 families during its short existence.”

The event, hosted by Manasota BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome) is the organization’s largest fundraiser, Baar said.

The organization was started in 2001 by three families who wanted to raise support for and awareness of children with Down syndrome and show that their children were “more alike than different,” Baar said.

For more information, call 907-0499 or visit to register online or make a donation.

WHEN: 10:45 a.m., Oct. 24
WHERE: Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival, 5500 C.R. 675
REGISTRATION: Starts at 9 a.m.
COST: $20 for adults or $35 per family of up to two adults and three children from the same household; each additional child is $10.
BENEFITS: Manasota BUDS (Bringing Up Down Syndrome)

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