File photo by Darla Hussey The Pumpkin Festival is on hiatus as the Walkers contemplate its future.

File photo by Darla Hussey

The Pumpkin Festival is on hiatus as the Walkers contemplate its future.

After 6 years, Walkers take a break from popular fall celebration

By Joanna Bastian

After six years of hosting the Pumpkin Festival at the Walker Windmill Farm, Gary and Patty Walker are taking a break this year.

With the growing popularity of the community event, the festival has outgrown their resources. Sitting under the shade trees in the midst of their immaculate gardens, the two reminisced about past events and mused about possibilities in the future.

“We got too big to be small and too small to be big,” Patty said. Gary nodded in agreement and added, “We need to decide if we want to grow, or be satisfied that we reached our original goal and to say thank you” to the community and all their friends who built a successful six years of Pumpkin Festivals.

Gary and Patty hosted the first festival at their farm on Highway 153 in 2010 to create memories for Methow Valley kids and their own grandchildren.

“We wanted to provide a harvest-themed event where families with young childrencould have fun without spending much money,” Patty explained. Families spent all day at the Walker farm, throwing down picnic blankets in the shady gardens while playing games, petting the animals, and picking pumpkins.

Gary and Patty toured other pumpkin festivals in the region and figured they could pull one off for the community that offered more activities at a lower cost. Parking, activities, live music, hay rides, entertainment, and some refreshments were free, while optional costs included pumpkin picking and buying farm fresh produce and local artwork.

Seventy-five people attended the first year. Two pumpkin patches were enough for everyone to have a pumpkin, and the Walker family, including their adult children and a handful of friends, efficiently managed the festival and the Walkers had enough free time to mingle with the visiting neighbors. Gary’s favorite memory that first year was watching, “little itty kids going down the tube of the hay bale crawl. We were not so busy that first year and able to visit with people that came.”

Out of pumpkins

By the third year, the festival was so popular that they ran out of pumpkins, despite having planted six patches that year. During the last two years, family friend Art Zink provided additional pumpkin patches on his own farm. In addition to creating more pumpkin patches, the parking area was tripled to accommodate hundreds of visitors. Last year the Walkers hosted over 400 Pumpkin Festival attendees.

With so many people, you might expect that there would have been some challenges, but Gary and Patty were pleasantly surprised.

“We never once had any issues,” Patty said. “There was hardly any litter and our property and animals were treated respectfully. We want to thank everyone who came to one of our festival days and showed so much respect and consideration to our farm, our family and to each other.”

When asked to share their favorite memories, Gary and Patty exchanged smiles and chuckles as they recalled the cider press, hay rides, and all the children having fun in their gardens.

“Our satisfaction came from seeing the fun that families had, including our own. We are pleased that the valley residents received it so well,” said Patty.

The baked potatoes last year were a big hit. The purple Viking potatoes grown at the Walker farm can be found at Hank’s Harvest Foods in Twisp this year.

Gary and Patty wanted to especially recognize all of the friends and family who helped them with the Pumpkin Festival each year:

“Our children traveled from Wenatchee, Oregon and California to help out. We had friends from Wenatchee and here in the valley volunteer their time, talent, and resources to help make the festival a success,” Patty said.

“The most important thing we want to express is our gratitude to the community for supporting our little project,” said Gary. “We want to express a special thank you to Brian McAuliffe for the coordination of the fire truck visitation at the fest. Also, a special thanks to Lauralee Northcott for volunteering to lead the sing-along on the hay wagon, Patty’s co-worker, Liz Weeks-Molz, who faithfully helped every year, [and] our neighbors Cindy Quisenberry and Barb DeLorenzo for helping us load, haul and store pumpkins.”