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Area Pumpkin Picking Already Plentiful

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After several months of being closed for construction, the Newton Township bridge recently reopened, and just in time, too, as another Newton Falls Bailey Road fixture is open again for business as well: the pumpkin patch owned by Tom Thomas and his family that presents plenty of pumpkin picking each year is officially open for the 2012 autumn season.
With easily thousands of pumpkins in several varieties, gourds, corn stalks, hay bales, and Indian corn on display, this must-see seasonal stop is a favorite tradition for area residents who know  that although the calendar may have passed September 21st and the colorful leaves may have started separating from the trees, it just isn’t officially fall until they have marked in the season by choosing that first pumpkin – or two or three or a dozen – of the year to decorate their yard (or porch or office cubicle).
Affectionately known to locals as “the pumpkin farm,” the patch is located on the corner of Wood Lenhart and Newton Falls Bailey, on the Lordstown side of that intersection. (Straddle the road and you’ll have one tire in Newton Township and one tire in Lordstown!)  The rows and rows of pre-picked pumpkins are hard to miss as that sea of orange can be spotted even from a fair distance down the road and are neatly arranged in groups according to size, variety, and pricing. Although the heftier pumpkins are $5 each, most of the yard is covered with $1-each options.
Tom estimates that he started growing pumpkins in 1975, which would mean he has been providing pumpkin-perusing pleasure for nearly 40 years. Tom’s wife, Regina, couldn’t quite put a finger on how or why they started in the pumpkin business, but relayed that they “love Halloween, we love fall, we love the kids that come and choose their pumpkins. It’s such a big decision for them to choose one out of all they see.” Tom recalls that the pumpkin growing happened on a bit of a whim as he originally used to have pigs in the barn and there was a lot of manure in the field as a result. A friend told him that pumpkins grow really well in manure and so he tried it. Decades later, that little seed of a thought has sprouted into something great that just keeps growing and growing.
Kindly giving a brief horticulture lesson, Tom explained how each pumpkin seed should be able to produce one pumpkin plant and then that plant will spout out any number of vines which may grow any number of pumpkins. Or maybe none at all! There seems to be quite a science to it, especially with the potential of cross-pollination, which accounts for some of the more interestingly shaped and hued results, but ultimately it’s up to Mother Nature. In addition to growing pumpkins, Tom taught high school biology for many years, so he definitely knows a thing or two about what makes the plants do what they do. Some of the various “results” on display are the more traditional-looking pumpkins, cute little Sugar Pie pumpkins which are better for baking because of their thicker skin and sweeter taste, and “bewitched” pumpkins which boast a bevy of barnacle-like blobs on their skin. By the section of those witchy “wart”-covered veggies, there is a great photo-op corner supplied with hay bales, prop pumpkins (non-warty ones) and a backdrop of cornstalks.
The pumpkin business has turned into quite the family affair for Tom and Regina – their son is the one responsible for growing those artful “bewitched” pumpkins, their daughter helps out with running the storefront and keeping track of the Pumpkin Hauler wagons, and even their little grandchildren love to visit the patch to take part in picking out pumpkins. A highlight of the season is when young students from local schools visit the patch and pile into the hay-lined bed of Tom’s wagon to go out to the field and pick their own very special pumpkins. For many, choosing that just perfect pumpkin is a special experience whether it is your very first one ever or a well-loved yearly tradition. And as a bonus to spread the early autumn joy, children who visit this weekend’s Chili Cook-Off in downtown Newton Falls will be treated to some of Tom’s (and Mother Nature’s) earthy works of art as he has generously donated dozens of the plump produce to be used as canvas for the free pumpkin painting activity.
Another treat awaiting visitors to this pumpkin patch is an array of oversized inflatable creatures guarding the front yard, some of which move very creepily when approached. Imagine a spooky serenade played by the monster on the pipe organ (can you hear it?), watch out for the midnight carriage being pulled by a galloping “night”mare steed, and don’t feel sorry for the haunting Horseman straight out of the classic movie eerily missing his head – he has plenty of new orange, round options to choose from within arm’s reach!

In addition to her role as a contributing reporter for the Weekly Villager, Mialie T. Szymanski is the creator of the bi-weekly column “Puppy Tails”. This children’s story time column stars Doodle Dog, a floppy-eared puppy who has an optimistic perspective of the world around him. Szymanski's picture book “Doodle Dog Enjoys the Day” chronicles a day in the life of this “paws”itive pup. The upcoming read-aloud anthology “Puppy Tails: Adventures of Doodle Dog” is a collection of the columns and illustrations as seen in The Weekly Villager over the last year.