WHAT: 15th annual Dell’Osso Farms Pumpkin Maze
WHERE: Manthey Road exit off I-5 just south of the San Joaquin River in Lathrop
WHEN: Daily through Oct. 31 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
PARKING: Free as is admission to the grounds
COSTS: Many attractions are free; $5 per bucket of ammo for Pumpkin Blaster; $14 all-day ticket for adults get unlimited access to the maze and haunted, all-day cost for kids ages 4 to 8 is $10; those under 3 are free; zip lines start at $6; spinning pumpkins $2.50; ropes course starts at $10; bucking pumpkin $5; plus a number of other attractions
LATHROP - Question: How far can you lob a mini-pumpkin using a 6-foot barrel with sights?
Answer: About 200 yards.
The 16 bazooka-style Pumpkin Blasters are perennial favorites at the Dell’Osso Farms Pumpkin Maze that opens for its 15th season today. Youngsters of all ages burst into smiles in hearing splats second after loading a mini-pumpkin, aiming the sight and pulling the trigger to send the orange orbs sailing through the air at speeds that can top 90 mph. It’s definitely different way to smash pumpkins.
It costs $5 for a bucket of ammo - 12 mini-pumpkins to be exact - to fire away at targets that include the standard open mouths on Halloween characters, old cars, and hanging tires.
The Pumpkin Blasters have triggered a lot of interest from other corn maze operations across the country but no one has followed Ron Dell’Osso’s lead given the hefty $5,000 price tag of having one of them fabricated.
Several other places have devices that fire off bigger pumpkins but the public can only watch. In Lathrop, they can load their own ammo, aim, and fire.
New attractions this year are a 5,000-square-foot Haunted Mansion that replaces the 3,000-square-foot Haunted House; Tea with the Pumpkin Princess (one actress has served as Snow White at Disneyland) designed for young girls, and a bucking pumpkin that is a gourd version of a mechanical bull. The cost is $5 a ride.
The main event is the 25-acre corn maze - the largest on the West Coast and possibly the United States. But even with 175,000 paid visitors through the corn maze expected by the time Halloween rolls around, the lines are non-existent compared to the air-powered weapons of mass pumpkin destruction that can hurl a miniature gourd toward quarter-inch steel targets that have to be junked each year because the pumpkins splattering against them riddle the steel with dents.
If you don’t think one of those mini-pumpkins are not as hard as a rock, try to smash one by slamming it into the ground.
The Pumpkin Blaster version the public fires is much milder than one of Dell’Osso’s blaster prototypes - a shoulder held model - that sent a miniature pumpkin into sub-orbit the first time he fired it from outside his barn. The hand-held PVC version sent a mini-pumpkin well over 600 feet and got it enough height to clear the five-story brick silos that are visible from Interstate 5 at the Dell’Osso Farms off Mathney Road.
By the time Dell’Osso Farms closes down for the season on the night of Halloween, roughly 200,000 mini-pumpkins will be sacrificed in the name of fun.
Dell’Osso is also one of the few people who can say with a straight face that they grow their own ammo.
The best advice for people who don’t want long waits is to get there when Dell’Osso Farms opens in the morning or stop by during the week.
The Lathrop site is open every day through Halloween from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
In addition to the massive corn maze, the month-long event includes a railroad ride, tractor ride, spinning pumpkins, rope confidence course, zip lines, a haunted hayride, a free race-car speedway, a Kiddie Land and much more.
This year the 25-acre maze actually consists of four mazes including a pumpkin, witch and a bat.
There is, of course, every imaginable shape, size and color of pumpkin available for sale.
They’ve also created the ultimate kids playground – a hill of stacked used tractor and heavy equipment tires filled with sand.
There’s still an elaborate haunted mansion, free tricycle races, pony rides and a hay maze for little kids. There’s also a Gold Rush-style attraction - a mining sluice at “Pumpkin Hill” complete with a western town where kids can pan for ore.
The event also features a 2-acre picnic ground, free parking, food and lots of areas for the kids to play.
The last entrance into the maze is at 8 p.m. so bring a flashlight.
— DENNIS WYATT
209 staff reporter