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It’s easy to fall in love with Manteca

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POSTED September 30, 2013 12:02 a.m.

Editor’s note: A version of this column appeared in September 2011.

Wisps of dust spiraled upward from among orchards in the almond triangle formed by Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon as man and machine swept fallen nuts Saturday.

Pumpkins are rolling out of Manteca for the four corners of California.

The two things — almond dust and pumpkins — mean only one thing: Summer weather is finally winding down and fall is here.

Fall arrived eight days ago when the autumnal equinox was reached as the sun passed directly over the earth’s equator on its timeless journey south along the horizon. But it isn’t “official” —at least in Manteca and Lathrop — until Saturday when the Pumpkin Fair opens for its 44th year (29th under the auspices of the Sunrise Kiwanis) and Dell’Osso Farm starts rolling for another month of fun

Fall is — without a doubt — Manteca’s season to shine.

Trucks will rumble out of Manteca soon at the rate of three dozen or more a day carrying more than 70 percent of the state’s pumpkin crop to stores up and down the state.

The pumpkins aren’t Manteca’s largest crop by far. It doesn’t even make it in the top three. That’s an honor reserved for milk, almonds, and grapes. But it now symbolizes Manteca farming as much as the cloddish looking sugar beet did for nearly 78 years.

The pumpkin also inspired a bit of civic pride when Half Moon Bay was making the outlandish claim no one matched them when it came to producing pumpkins.

Manteca farmers set them straight and ended up creating the biggest community event of the year — the pumpkin party staged the first full weekend of October that is now being staged by the Sunrise Kiwanis.

The Pumpkin Fair brings out 40,000 each year for two days of fun under the warm Manteca sun.

One of those pumpkin growers —Ron Dell’Osso — has taken pumpkin mania to the next level with his annual pumpkin maze that opened this past Saturday and runs through Oct. 31 off Interstate 5 in Lathrop. What other farmer can brag that he raises over 100,000 rounds of live ammo — miniature pumpkins — that are used as the ammo of choice for his one-of-a-kind pumpkin blasters?  If you don’t think farmers are smart, ask yourself this: Could you get upwards of 140,000 people a year to pay $10 apiece to simply walk through corn?

The fall is when Manteca’s community calendar shifts into overdrive with benefits and fund raisers. It’s when youth sports take off and football returns as the king of Friday nights.

The days at the start of fall are always exceptional — warm with little wind. There will still be a few days yet where the mercury spikes into the upper 90s or even the 100s — for one last hurrah before tule fog starts permeating from the ground assuming, of course, heavy rains return this winter.

But there is already a chill in the air, with the nights cooling off to the mid-50s.

It’s not New England but then who cares? We’ve got autumn colors and still have roses in full bloom plus the promise of snow on the way just two hours away while we stay relatively dry and warm in the San Joaquin Valley.

This is the time of year you can’t help but fall in love with Manteca.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209-249-3519.

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