The second annual Harvest Pumpkin fest took the best of its inaugural year and improved upon it, while tackling some of the logistical difficulties of the previous year.
The four-trip excursion, offered by Albertra Prairie Railway, took guests by train to a special pumpkin patch south of Stettler. There, they were greeted by a bevy of “train engineers” who helped them make their way through the pumpkin patch, picking out their favourite orange orb to bring home for carving.
After the pumpkin was deposited in its bright orange carrying bag, guests headed inside the bright white tent to get their hands on pumpkin-flavoured snacks, hotdogs with worms (which were really onions), coffee, juice or water, and take in the pumpkins carved by the train’s staff.
After that, they could head outside and enjoy spooky stories, jokes, and sing-a-longs by the wicked witch, who was safely ensconced in her hay bale witch’s tower, before they would take the train back to Stettler.
Donna Anderson found out about the excursion through Facebook. The Edmonton mother and her son, Carter, drove down to Stettler to take the ride.
It was much the same for Mike Favreau, who heard about the event from a friend. He and his son, Kellan, came up fromCalgary to make the ride. Kellan even got into it by wearing his firefighter costume, his black and flourescent-striped coat standing out as he went from pumpkin to pumpkin to pumpkin, trying to find the perfect one.
Brent O’Hara and son Liam came from Red Deer to join family here in going along on the train.
“I liked how streamlined disembarking and embarking was,” he said.
Stettler’s Rhea O’Hara, who went last year, said the smaller pumpkins this year were a bonus.
Changes to the excursion
The few hurdles riders faced last year were addressed this year, primarily in the method in which people embarked and disembarked at the pumpkin patch.
Last year, harvest pumpkin goers would emerge from the train at a central point. Once they were disembarked, the exiting party would board the train.
In theory the concept worked, but in practice, disembarking passengers had to wade through a line-up of people ready to leave, and the time it took to empty and fill the train was longer than anticipated.
This year, to tackle that hurdle, passengers would disembark through two exits, one at either end of the train, while people boarded in the middle. By the time the train was empty enough to start boarding, the first people who had disembarked were making their way into the pumpkin patch, avoiding the collision of crowds.
The selection of smaller pumpkins was increased this year after last, as both kids and parents alike realized that toting around a big pumpkin took a toll on their hands, the carrying bag, and their energy.
The excursion also added entertainment this year, having a joke and storytelling witch on hand to engage children waiting for the train to return, pulling them into the silly, spooky stories or sing-a-longs.
One thing didn’t change this year, and that was the fun of the day.
“It’s cool,” Kellan Favreau said, before he dragged his father away again in the search of the elusive, perfect pumpkin.