gmhTODAY 22 gmhToday Oct Nov 2018 - Page 54

54 GILROY • MORGAN HILL • SAN MARTIN La Gina Metcalf, 96, started working at the pumpkin park in 1985. “My husband drove the train,” she said. “And I worked in the little office selling pumpkins.” These days, La Gina keeps track of the 200 seasonal employees, and monitors the school tours provided for kids from Pre-school through Third Grade. Monday through Friday mornings during the pumpkin season, a thousand kids per day make the rounds of the park. “I get excited every year,” La Gina said. “I can’t wait for October. I like to be busy. And I like people.” The pumpkin, its seeds planted in the summer, its fruit harvested in the fall and stored in a root cellar for eating during the winter, has long been a symbol of the bounty of the harvest season. Pumpkins originated in the Americas, where seeds have been discovered that date back to 7,000 B.C.E. They were a staple of the indigenous peoples in the Americas who ate the seeds, flesh, flowers, and rind. Today, they’re grown on every continent but Antarctica. If you want to, you can buy a pumpkin anywhere. But you don’t go to the Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park just to buy pumpkins: You go to immerse yourself in a world that doesn’t exist for most of us anymore. It’s a world of the harvest, the farm, the country, and the county fair all rolled into one. Pumpkins are probably the primary goal for most visitors. So when you enter the park, wheelbarrows are available to hold all the pumpkins you’re going to choose from among the thousands on display—a huge variety of pumpkins are available, from the standard jack-o-lantern to white, blue, red, mini, turban, Cinderella, and sugar pumpkins for pie-making. Bales of straw and bundled corn stalks are also available for purchase to create a holiday display at home. OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2018 Pumpkin Park Y ou can be sure that autumn has arrived by the chilled air, the fallen leaves, the shorter days, and the opening on October 1st of the Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park. Coming from or going towards San Martin on Monterey Road, your eye is drawn to the huge inflated pumpkin, the pumpkin pyramid, which requires 4,000 pumpkins all by itself, and the miniature train chugging alongside the road. You can’t help but smile, thinking ahead to carving jack-o'-lanterns, celebrating Halloween, and sitting at a table laden with food and the warmth of a holiday meal with friends and family. Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park has long served South County as the harbinger of Fall and the outlet for all things pumpkin. In 1979, Joe Aiello and his partner Dennis Humphreys purchased the original Uesugi Farms from George Uesugi, keeping the name in George’s honor. The pumpkin park started as a pumpkin patch in 1984 when Aiello’s sons, Michael and Peter, then ten and seven y ears of age, asked if they could sell pumpkins. Aiello planted an acre of pumpkins across Monterey Road from the present- day pumpkin park and let them have at it. “I don’t think they even knew how to count back change,” the senior Aiello said. From that humble beginning, Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park started a thirty-three year tradition that has grown into a 45-acre Park with over 15 attractions. “We are a family farm,” Pumpkin Park Manager Crystal Melton said. “And the park is an extension of that, so every- thing we do is about families and fun.” Seasonal employee, Shelley Traverso said, “After I retired, I applied for a job at the park because I thought it would be fun, and now I’ve been here every October for seven years.” Traverso said that it’s all about the kids: “Every year parents tell me ‘We’ve been bringing our kids since they were babies, and they still love it.’”