After a hot and smoky summer, many are enjoying the relief of clean, crisp fall air and bundling up under blankets with coffee, cocoa or cider to help ward off cool evenings. October is a time of harvest and celebration and also leads up to many kids’ favorite fall evening—Halloween. Who wouldn’t love dressing up as their favorite superhero, Disney princess or scary pirate or ghost and trekking around the neighborhood to acquire a year’s worth of sweets in one night? For many, the evening’s celebration begins weeks earlier by picking out that perfect pumpkin to carve and place out on the front porch. You’ll find crates of them for sale at grocery stores and other retailers, but if you want to add a personal touch to your Halloween decorations this year, consider picking your own, fresh off the vine.
Hickey Farms has been a family run farm since the 1920s. Located about 5 miles outside of Sandpoint, the farm has provided everything from dairy to beef to produce to the surrounding communities for nearly 100 years but has gained even more attention recently for its annual harvest festival.
“The first year we just wanted to put something together for our friends, relatives and a few kids. We had a very small pumpkin patch and not much else,” said Dean Holt, one of several family members who work the farm year round. Dean’s wife, twin brothers, mother, father and uncle all have their own niche to make the family business a success. The first ‘mini’ harvest festival went over so well the group decided to expand the operation and open it up to the community. Now in its fifth year, the pumpkin patch is a huge hit, drawing thousands of visitors during October weekends, all in search of that perfect gourd and a family fun fall outing.
“Watching the kids run and grab the pumpkin they absolutely want and aren’t leaving without, the smile on their face, that’s the coolest part of the whole experience,” said Dean.
The pumpkin patch at Hickey Farms continues to expand, and people are surprised to learn that the farm grows around 20 different varieties of pumpkins and another 10 varieties of squash. This means you’ll find a wide array of colors, short, tall, fat, skinny and everything in between. Dean believes there is no perfect pumpkin, but the one you choose can say a lot about you.
“I think it’s good to find a pumpkin with some character, sometimes that reflects your personality, and be sure to find one with a sturdy handle,” he advised.
When the patch opens the first Friday evening in October, kids are sprinting around looking for the best of the best, but without fail there are some early surprises.
“Some kids want the absolute ugliest pumpkin out there, and the ones we think will be first to go often don’t,” laughed Dean.
Hickey Farms is open to the public beginning at 3pm on Friday, October 6. It will then be open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:30am to dusk through October 27. From Sandpoint, take Highway 200 East about 5.5 miles, take a left onto Hickey Road and follow the signs for parking. If you are coming from Clark Fork or other areas from the east, the turnoff is located about a ½ mile past Colburn Culver Road.
As you arrive you’ll quickly notice that this is more than just a pumpkin patch. All kinds of additional entertainment for adults and kids alike awaits as do delicious treats and drinks. Vendors are all from the local area, which Hickey Farms is proud to support.
“At first we sought out people and vendors to come on board, and now that we’re established it’s a lot easier,” said Dean. “We have some vendors that have been with us since the beginning, and it’s been a very good partnership for both of us.”
While the pumpkin patch is often the star of the show, the corn maze comes in a close second for many visitors. At more than 5,000 feet in total length, it’s no walk in the park, but don’t worry, you won’t get stuck overnight either. Local musicians and bands will be playing during the day. Scheduled to appear this season are Brown Salmon Truck, Devon Wade, Truck Mills, Chris Lynch and Brian Jacobs as well as Doug Bond. Additional entertainment will be provided by The Pottery Bug and Star the Magician. Kids will enjoy many trips down the giant inflatable slide, and a new barrel train can take them for a short ride around the property as well.
“It was kind of unexpected,” said Dean, of the popularity of the Festival. “We hoped it would grow, but it’s been great to see the support and people coming multiple times. We hope it keeps on growing.”
While kicking back and enjoying the music or scouring the patch for that perfect pumpkin, guests can enjoy a bite to eat and something warm to drink. Kessa’s Coffee, Klondyke Café, Kettle Korn Guys, Patty’s Cakes and Oilers Baked Goods will all be on hand. There is also beer and wine available for those 21 and older. Be sure to stroll through the local craft market where you can find photography, signs and other handmade goods, or just have your face painted to match the season.
“It’s not just for the kids. Obviously it’s about them, but there are all kinds of stuff for adults to do as well,” said Dean.
The farm also partners with the American Heritage Wildlife Foundation on a Scarecrow Contest throughout the month. Pick up your entry form, design your scarecrow and pay your entry fee. Proceeds go to North Idaho's only 501(c)(3) working to rehabilitate both mammals and birds. While you are there, make sure to stop at the polling station and judge the scarecrows. The winners are chosen weekly and will receive prizes. Photos will be taken and promoted throughout the web.
If you take a trip out to Hickey Farms, you’ll be greeted by several Holt family members each running a different portion of the festival, much like they do with the rest of the farm throughout the year. It’s the family’s hope that they’ve created a place where families can really spend some quality time together.
“We want people to come out and relax, disconnect, unplug and not be in front of a screen. Come meet your neighbors and talk to them face to face,” said Dean.
If you would like to learn more about the farm, you can visit HickeyFarmsIdaho.com or find them on Facebook under Hickey-Farms. Birthdays and other parties can also be arranged through social media or by calling 208.290.1539.
You can get a pumpkin many places this October, but finding that perfect one fresh off the vine and spending the day with great food and entertainment from the local community will be an experience not soon forgotten.