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Pumpkin Express ready to roll
Manteca resident John Greco, back, is credited with providing key technical advice to get the new train rolling. Shown with him on the train’s maiden voyage at Dell’Osso Farms is mechanic Merced Cruz. - photo by HIME ROMERO

LATHROP – Ron Dell’Osso always wanted his own train set as a child.

It took him 40 years but he finally got one on Friday.

Instead of the Lionel train boys dreamed about in the early 1960s, this train set is a tad bigger. It’s a 24-guage train or one quarter the size of the real deal and runs on a one-mile oval track around Dell’Osso Farms’ 30-acre Pumpkin Maze that opens for its 12th season a week from today.

“It goes around the farm just like it goes around a Christmas tree,” Dell’Osso said Friday.

The Christmas tree analogy is more than just wishful thinking. After the Pumpkin Maze ends its run at the bewitching hour on Oct. 31, Dell’Osso Farms will reopen in mid-November with a new attraction dubbed Holidays on the Farms. It’ll include a mile-long drive with nearly 500 professionally designed displays using Christmas lights, real reindeer, an authentic looking Santa and Mrs., Claus who have been imported from Iowa and a host of other Yuletide attractions.

The main attraction, though, promises to be something that will still be around come the first week of March – snow tubing on Mt. Dell’Osso.

The Dell’Osso Farms website is already getting heavy traffic reserving 90-minute runs for $15 on a manmade 30-foot high hill with a 200-foot drop coupled with a 100-foot run. It allows people to ride inner tubes on manmade snow from mid-November to the start of March. It also will include a roof so rain doesn’t disrupt the fun. To allow people to get in the maximum number of runs during a 90-minute stretch, Dell’Osso is installing a people mover to take snow tubers back up the hill.

Crews were starting to install the ice making machine Friday while work is continuing on a new zip line attraction while crews were rushing to get the new Dell’Osso Farms Country Store up and running for the first day of the Pumpkin Maze.

“We’re jamming about five years of improved attractions into six months,” Dell’Osso said.

The passenger train, four zip lines, and snow tubing hill are the latest “dreams come true” for the agrarian Walt Disney and modern-day Tom Sawyer who – along with wife and business partner Susan – eventually hope to turn Dell’Osso Farms into a year-round attraction.

“We want this to be the perfect place for little kids and big kids and for people to bring dates,” Dell’Osso said.

The main event Friday was the maiden voyage of the CP Huntington – a replica of the 1863 steam engine by the same name of which 300 were made.

“It looked so cute with smoke coming out of the smoke stack and hearing the train whistle,” noted Susan Dell’Osso who said he husband was acting “lie a big kid” with a new toy.

She also was dazzled by the old-style lights on both the tunnel and train station that were turned on for the first time as well.

Ron Dell’Osso said he was impressed with how PG&E stepped up as well as the City of Lathrop.

“There were no cutting corners, they just expedited things and worked with us,” he said. “It was a true team effort.”

Dell’Osso is also the man who invented the world’s only pumpkin blasters. Sixteen bazooka-style devices allow visitors to take aims at various targets including old cars. The air-powered weapons of mass pumpkin destruction hurl miniature gourds up to 90 mph 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 isn’t as hard as a rock, try to smash one by slamming it into the ground.

And how did he come up with the idea for pumpkin blasters?

“I always wanted a toy gun for Christmas and my mom wouldn’t buy me one,” said Dell’Osso who as a young boy played army with buddies and relatives around the circular brick silos that today serve as the marketing image for Dell’Osso Farms.

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