AROUND THE START OF FALL, pumpkin people begin to keep a keen eye out for patch-based potential. The season's beloved gourd is already the star of various coffee beverages, and pumpkin candles and candies are showing up in the stores. But as far as real, honest-to-jack-o-lantern pumpkins go? The corner lots and farm-sweet fields of orange-y goodness aren't yet making a robust showing when autumn kicks off, at least in many corners. That changes when September bids us goodbye, however; the pumpkin-growing farms and vine-vivacious rural destinations of Southern California line up the road-close signs, signs that advertise pumpkins for purchase. One of the best-known 'round Orange County is the venerable Tanaka Farms, which is the scene of a superb pumpkin patch each fall. And that patch is starting just as the ninth month takes its bow, on Thursday, Sept. 29.
"COME EARLY IN THE SEASON," recommends the site, "for the best pumpkins and photo ops available." "Acres of fun!" is part of the deal, as are farm animal sightings, wagon rides, and the occasional launching of pumpkins high into the sky. And will there be a maze? You bet. And is it open daily? You bet, though the weekend Harvest Festival events go even further into expanding the general autumn air. Admission is two bucks to the patch, while some of the activities, like the Pumpkin Cannon Blaster, are separately priced (and some are free). Best eye the day you want to go to make sure all of the fun falltime classics are happening, at least the classics you want to participate in. True story: Pumpkin patch time is really revving up, and, as always, Tanaka Farms in Irvine has the full complement of gourdly goings-on.