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Saturday, October 22, 2005 | Pumpkins don’t get much love all year long until October, when the underappreciated gourd appears for a month-long display of color and form. From pie-fillings to door-stoppers, the hearty pumpkin will be the favorite, until, after one Thanksgiving hurrah, it will fade back into obscurity.

Pick your perfect pumpkin at these local patches while the season lasts:

Bates Nut Farm is home of the “Big Mac,” a monstrous variety of pumpkin producing individuals between 50 and 120 pounds. Other wholesome highlights include miniature gourds, squashes, tractor hayrides, a straw maze, a petting corral and plenty of nuts, dried fruit and candy. Offering free admission and medium-sized pumpkins for around $3.75, it’s one of the best deals in the county. The farm is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Oct. 31 and is located at 15954 Woods Valley Road, Valley Center. For more information, call (760) 749-3333 or visit www.batesnutfarm.biz.

Anderson Farms keeps their pumpkin field open through the end of November, plus pony rides, hay rides, a super-slide, a corn maze and a flower maze are available to entertain. The farm is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, at 13120 Willow Road, Lakeside. For more information, call (619) 390-0571.

Shoppers on-the-go can visit one of two Pumpkin Stations, conveniently located in the Westfield Shopping Town in Mission Valley and the Plaza Bonita Shopping Center in National City. These pumpkin-themed carnivals offer 10 different rides, a petting zoo, a game zone, and a few thousand pumpkins to choose from. The locations are open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday through Sunday, through Oct. 31.

At Pumpkin Central, a giant tent covers rows of beautiful and bizarre pumpkins of every shape, size and color. Children can load child-sized pumpkins and gourds into red wagons, participate in crafts, or frolic in the carnival out back. Parking is free but the pumpkins are pricey. The tent is open daily, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., through Oct. 31, opposite the Del Mar Fairgrounds at 1555 Jimmy Durante Blvd. For more information, call (888) 302-8733.

A propane-powered corn canon is the unique attraction at Mountain Valley Ranch, a 25-acre family farm with an otherwise standard line-up of October offerings. The corn canon shoots ears of corn into a field with targets, to the delight of children who have seen one-to-many pumpkins for the day. The farm is open daily, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., through Oct. 31, at 842 Highway 78, Ramona. For more information, call (760) 788-8703 or visit www.mountainvalleyranch.com.

-JESSICA L. HORTON, Voice Contributing Writer

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