The annual Halloween festivities in the Valley have begun, and while they are filled with both the frightful and the delightful, each is a uniquely thrilling way to celebrate the spooky season. The rich histories of the old towns of Fillmore and Santa Paula usually tempt exploration, but this October, the history is even more inviting because it is offered in many of the celebrations.
Something Wondrous This Way Comes
Santa Paula Pumpkin Patch, Limoneira Ranch
888-522-1884 or http://pumpkinpatchatlimoneiraranch.com
A trebuchet is a type of catapult that was most commonly used in the Middle Ages. The contraption may have been utilized in times of war, but at Limoneira Ranch in Santa Paula, its purpose is far from bleak.
This year Limoneira is hosting the Rotary Club of Santa Paula’s Pumpkin Patch. The event was formerly held at Faulkner Farms and, according to John Chamberlain, Limoneira’s director of marketing, the citrus ranch had been supportive of the Rotary’s efforts for many years. “It’s a great back-in-time experience. The Patch is on 15 beautiful acres framed by the Topa Topa Mountains. There are a lot of great activities,” Chamberlain said.
Limoneira has seemingly absorbed the best of what Faulkner Farms offered and has added some new events. One of these is the trebuchet or “pumpkin chucker,” used to fling pumpkins at a target to win prizes. It was built by Chris Wilson, one of the original organizers. New this year is the five-acre Corn MAiZE. The Rotary contracted with a professional company that helps create these twisting, turning labyrinths built from tall corn stalks. (Those MAiZE designers are no hayseeds: They’ve built mazes around the world, and been featured on National Geographic, CNN, NBC and CBS, among others.) Getting through the MAiZE can take anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours.
The patch also features musical performances, hay-wagon rides, face painting, a country store, farm animals, a petting zone and acres of gourds and pumpkins. Approximately 20,000 visitors are expected this year. “There is a lot of history and agricultural education. We think this is a fun learning experience,” said Chamberlain. And, just as with Faulkner Farms, all the proceeds go to community organizations.
The Undead Zone
Zombie Hunter Train, Fillmore
524-2546 or www.fwry.com
Can you kill a zombie? The Fillmore & Western Railway Company (FWRY) says you can — and will show you how! Since 2015, the Zombie Hunter Train has been offered by FWRY and Stryker Paintball, allowing participants to hunt zombies using paintballs. FWRY co-owner Dave Wilkinson was inspired to launch the Zombie Hunter Train after visiting friends at another railroad who were using laser guns to shoot at targets.
“The train cars that we shoot from have a top, but are opened on the sides,” explained FWRY co-owner Tresa Wilkinson. She also noted that heavy rain would be the only deterrent. Thus far, it has not been an issue.
Participants are briefly instructed on how to use the paintball guns, which are mounted for easier use. Furthermore, there are Stryker staff on board throughout the ride to provide assistance if required. The 90-minute hunt entails shooting at zombies and targets while the train moves between 5 and 15 mph. With everyone shooting in the same area as the train passes by, hits are not linked to a particular participant. Rather, the objective is to simply shoot as many zombies and targets as possible. Be warned: A few zombies are aboard the train. As Wilkinson said, “Getting to shoot at zombies from a moving train — what can be more fun than that?”
For a festive but less frightful experience, there’s always the ever-popular PumpkinLiner going to the railway’s own pumpkin patch, where activities include hay rides, a carousel, jolly jumps, a pumpkin maze and more. FWRY also offers Murder Mystery train rides and a Haunted Hayride dinner train.
An Unsettled Past on Seventh Street
Santa Paula GhostWalk
525-3073 or www.ghostwalk.com
Each year for the last 22 years, Santa Paula has been haunted by ghosts whose tales are recounted by the actors of the Santa Paula Theater Center.
It’s SPTC’s annual Ghostwalk, a guided tour through a historic area that is complemented by encounters with various spirits who reveal their unique stories, often with the aid of special effects. Some of the ghosts may be based on historical events and people in Santa Paula, and some may be fictional, but SPTC strives always to tell the stories with a sense of humor. Scripts and locations change every year, and the location usually drives the theme. For example, when Ghostwalk was held at Santa Paula Airport, the tales featured airplanes or concerned actor Steve McQueen, who kept a plane there.
This year, SPTC is presenting a single, connected story in an ongoing tale that starts at the Gaston Méliès Star Film Company — now the site of the theater center in downtown Santa Paula — and travels to the historic Universalist Unitarian Church just a short walk away.
Ghostwalk aims to combine entertainment and history every October. Initially begun as a fundraising effort and a means to creatively tell stories, its popularity has made it as important to Santa Paula as the historical locations and events that it features.