One sure sign of autumn when you live in Tucson is the bounty of festivals, pumpkin-picking celebrations, haunted happenings and Oktoberfests that fill October weekends. Here are some of our favorites:
PUMPKINS AND MORE
Fall Pumpkin Celebration
• What: Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins in Willcox is open seven days a week. But you can only catch a hayride to the pumpkin patch (where scores of pumpkins wait to be picked from the vine) during the Fall Pumpkin Celebration every weekend in October.
"It's a tradition for lots of families, and this year we've noticed a lot of new people also," said Mandy Kirkendall, Apple Annie's manager of fun. She estimated that about 50,000 people will visit throughout the month.
"Fall is a great time to come out," she said, noting that Willcox's higher elevation makes it about 10 degrees cooler than Tucson. About those pumpkins - you'll find everything from decorative miniatures to giants that range upwards of 150 pounds. There's also a pumpkin stand with already picked pumpkins in a range of types and colors.
At 15 acres, the corn maze at Apple Annies is Arizona's largest, and offers three levels of difficulty.
• When: The pumpkin celebration is 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays in October.
• Where: Apple Annie's Produce and Pumpkins is at 6405 W. Williams Road in Willcox. A pancake breakfast and apple-smoked burgers are sold at the nearby orchard, 2081 W. Hardy Road.
• Cost: Admission is free, but you will pay for food, produce and activities such as the corn maze ($7; $5 age 3-11; free 2 and under) and the hayride to the pumpkin patch and children's play area ($3; free for ages 2 and under).
• Details: www.appleannies.com
The Buckelew Farm Pumpkin Festival
• What: This family-run festival has grown steadily over 23 years. "We had about 500 people at our first pumpkin festival. We have now about 40,000 over the month of October," Laurie Buckelew said, noting that includes school field trips.
In addition to a 50-acre pumpkin patch, Buckelew has an 11-acre corn maze (with four miles of trail), an arts and crafts tent, festival games, 4-H petting zoo, mechanical bull and a pedal-cart racetrack, in addition to a host of scary goings-on after dark. Food includes hamburgers, corn on-the-cob, Indian fry bread and homemade pumpkin pie.
New this year - ghost wagon rides complete with scary stories.
• When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays starting Oct. 8 for the pumpkin festival and corn maze. You can also stroll the corn maze by flashlight on Friday nights from 6 to midnight, and Saturdays from 5 to midnight.
Where: 30 minutes from downtown Tucson. Take Ajo Way (U.S. 86) west for 22 miles.
• Cost: $4 festival admission (children in diapers free) includes tractor-drawn wagon rides to and from the pumpkin patch. Corn maze additional.
• Fear factor: "Terror In The Corn" (the Haunted Cornfield) is Fridays and Saturdays from dark (about 6:30) to about midnight starting Oct. 7. "Terror In The Corn" admission is $20, and includes the entire corn- maze experience by flashlight.
• Details: buckelewfarm.com
Patagonia Fall Festival
• What: This fest has been described as one of Arizona's best small town celebrations with music, art, food and lots of family fun. It's expected to draw more than 15,000 to the community next weekend.
"Our whole town changes," said Lars Marshall, a festival spokesman. "It's a great three days."
It's also a good time to start holiday shopping. "You could spend $5 or $10, or you could spend thousands," he said.
"We make sure that somebody that's coming down on a budget can buy themselves something."
Many visitors take the opportunity to sample Patagonia's restaurants, but there is also plenty of food at the festival - from fry bread to hamburgers served by the fire department. There's also a wine garden featuring area wines.
• When: Opens at 11 a.m. on Oct. 7, and at 10 a.m. Oct. 8-9.
• Where: Patagonia Town Park, on Arizona 82 between Sonoita and Nogales, about an hour from Tucson.
• Details: www.patagoniafallfestival.com - which include a full lineup of the music.
Nightfall: New Terror in Town Square
• What: Laser lights, live shows and haunts transform the dusty streets of Old Tucson Studios. There's also live music on Fridays by the Mission Creeps.
• When: Opens Friday. Doors open at 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays in October, and on Halloween.
• Where: Old Tucson Studios, 201 S. Kinney Road.
• Cost: Admission is $15 Friday through Sunday for Sneak Peek Weekend. Starting next Thursday, it's $25; $20 age 11 and under.
• Details: www.nightfallaz.com or 883-0100.
• What: In its second year at the old Farmer John building, this haunt is "90 percent new," organizers say. That adds up to 25,000 square feet of terror for ages 10 and over.
• When: Starts Friday. Gates open at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays and Halloween.
• Where: The old Farmer John building, 1102 W. Grant Road.
• Cost: Admission is $21, with discounts available online.
• More info: slaughterhousetucson.com or 990-9000.
Tucson Oktoberfest at Hi Corbett Field
• What: This benefit event for the Optimists Clubs includes German food, beer and wine along with more than 100 artists and crafters, children's activities, music. Wiener dog races Friday evening.
• When: 5-10 p.m. today; noon-11 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturday; noon-5 p.m. Sunday.
• Where: Hi Corbett Field, 3400 E. Camino Campestre.
• Admission: $3; 12 and under free. Free today with donation of two cans of food for the Community Food Bank.
• More info: 241-7730.
Oktoberfest at Café Passé
• What: German food, a beer garden and The Bouncing Czechs.
• When: Saturday is the last day. Starts serving at noon until the food runs out. The Tucson polka band performs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.
• Where: Café Passé, 415 N. Fourth Ave.
Mount Lemmon Ski Valley Oktoberfest
• What: Alpine festival features plenty of German food, beer, music and dancing.
• Where: Mount Lemmon Ski Valley, 10300 Ski Run Road.
• When: 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends through Oct. 9.
• Admission: Free with $4 parking.
• More info: www.skithelemmon.com
Compiled by Inger Sandal