Every October, Post Farms in Marana transforms into a fall-themed wonderland. Corn mazes sprout. Mountains of hay bales climb toward the sky. Pigs race. Catapults hurl pumpkins and trains whistle.
That’s the way it appears to the 30,000 revelers who stop by the Marana Pumpkin Patch and Farm Festival, at 14901 N. Wentz Road, each year for pumpkin-picking, food, fun and unlimited refills of Halloween-season spirit.
The festival may appear to pop up like magic, but Post Farms owner and Marana Town Councilman Jon Post says the monthlong event is a year-round effort.
In addition to four full-time employees devoted all year to the festival, Post hires 50 temporary workers for the event. The activity area covers 20 acres, while the pumpkin patch is 50 acres.
“To make straw mountain, that’s 2,000 bails in that. There is a lot of hand labor. We’re constantly in the field weeding and planting pumpkins by hand, making sure there is the right amount of plants in the field. It’s a lot of very intensive labor.”
This is the third annual festival, and Post keeps adding more to do. In addition to the corn mazes, wagon rides to pumpkin patches, pig races, jumping pillows and train rides from years past, there are pumpkin catapults, a country store and expanded food options for this year’s event.
“It’s a lot of fun, and I don’t feel like I’m finished,” Post said. “I feel like we give people who come every year a great time.”
Post said he’s adjusted to the growing crowds by adding parking lots and more attendants at the entrance to keep lines at a minimum.
His yearning to add more attractions each year springs from the reason he created the festival in the first place.
“I kind of had it in the back of my mind for a while,” Post said. “We went to another one and spent $100. Took the kids. We really didn’t have anything to do and kind of left disappointed. I thought, ‘Man, I could do this.’ ”
With many events geared toward the young and young at heart, the festival is a big draw for families.
“It’s a good family place to go,” said Linda Spicer, a festival administrator who has worked in the role since the festival started. “There are so many children that come from town, and they’re not exposed to any of this where they live, so I think it’s good for them.”
Admission includes a pumpkin, wagon ride, the straw mountain and kid zone, corn mazes, jumping pillows, pig races and the petting zoo. Train and tractor rides, a zip line, pony rides and use of the corn and pumpkin cannons cost extra.
Carnival-style food such as hot dogs, hamburgers, pizza, nachos, popcorn pretzels and desserts are available for purchase.
Cattleman’s Cafe offers burgers and fries, pulled pork sandwiches, chicken and carne asada burritos and bowls and nachos for sale.
This year there are themed dining events as well. Breakfast burritos or biscuits and gravy, at $5 each, will be available weekend mornings, and on Monday nights spaghetti dinners will go for $5. Friday night is steak night, and pricier at $14 a plate.
Post said the community has been appreciative of the event.
“I get a lot of different reactions,” he said. “One of the first reactions is: ‘Oh, wow! This reminds me of the farm my grandfather had when I was a kid.’ People find it neat, and the kids play all day long and never get bored. People are really excited to be there.”
Post said he wants people to reconnect with Marana’s agricultural heritage.
“What I’m going for is the feeling and look of what you get when you read a children’s storybook about a farm. The colors, the animals and things like that is what I’m after,” he said.
“I think people really love to come out to farms, but I think people misinterpret farms in Arizona — how different they are from farms back East or in the Midwest. Farms here are very different. We don’t have rain and things like that, and aren’t just growing green everywhere you look. I think that’s something that draws people out every year. They’re looking for that nostalgia.”