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Bringing home the bacon
2016 Bacon Festival christens farm events ground, concert venue
dell osso
Ron DellOsso runs up the backside of the snow hill with the new DellOsso Farms events center in the background. Grapes are being planted in the foreground while a stage will be built between the two brick silos.

Dell’Osso Farms’ 19th annual Pumpkin Maze — the October event featuring nearly three dozen venues ranging from pumpkin blasters and a haunted castle to zip lines — opens this Saturday.

And while there are new features such as a kids’ mini roller coaster, it is the additions that the seeds have been planted for that promise to be a game changer for what is already California’s top agri-tourism attraction.

Three acres have been planted in Bermuda grass facing two brick silos from the 1910s where a concert stage will be built. The new events area can accommodate up to 25,000 people for an outdoor concert or easily handle that number for a festival over the course of a day or two.

Christening the events ground on June 18-19 — Father’s Day weekend 2016 — will be the Bacon Festival staged in partnership with Manteca-based Sunnyvalley Smoked Meats. It will salute everything bacon.

“We are planning to have a concert there once a month,” noted Ron Dell’Osso.

The grounds will also accommodate corporate events and festivals. It also has a small lake.

It is just part of a number of improvements underway at the 60-acre Pumpkin Maze grounds.

Other improvements are:

uThe initial stages of a Tom Sawyer-style adventure island. Ultimately it will have the things young boys dream off — tunnels, tree houses, natural swings and more.

uthe planting of more than 1,000 fruit trees plus grapes. The 15 variety of fruit trees will reflect the bounty of the San Joaquin Valley starting with “Tracy apricots” on the northern end of the grounds to “Bakersfield oranges” on the southern end. Eventually Dell’Osso will offer visitors the opportunity to pick their own fresh fruit.

ua tight planting of olive trees along guide wire separating the perimeter of the grounds from parking. It eventually will serve as a natural fence and the existing wooden fences will be removed.

uan additional five acres of grass will serve as grounds for future festival activities.

uadditional crushed granite has been spread to further reduce dust and mud issues.

Susan Dell’Osso said corporations regularly schedule events at Dell’Osso Farms during October when the Pumpkin Maze is open as well as during Holidays at the Farm when the snow making machine, holiday light attractions, and other winter-style activities are in full swing.

Firms also have made inquires about using the grounds at other times of the year. That, in part, prompted the expansion.

The developed 60 acres are part of a 120-acre parcel that fronts Interstate 5 between the San Joaquin River and a point near the Interstate 205 transition in Lathrop. Ron Dell’Osso said the balance will eventually be developed into parking for large concerts.

Dell’Osso is the third generation in his family of farmers to work the land that was originally a dairy when his grandfather Alfredo Dell’Osso obtained it with his brothers in the early 1900s.

The Pumpkin Maze has grown for its first year with 20,000 visitors to last year where more than 160,000 people dropped by. That’s in addition to 30,000 people that visited during Holidays on the farm.

They also have an annual mud run that lures more than 5,000 participants annually.

Marketing Director Yvonne Sampson noted the husband-wife team crafted the improvements to continue being good stewards of the land using “conservation, moderation, and preservation.”

The eight acres of new grass, for example, is planted as Bermuda that uses 20 percent less water. Bermuda can also be allowed to go dormant, turn yellow, and then bounce back to green when watering is resumed.

The two new lakes are filled with water from Stewart Island’s high water table. It is the same source for bubblers that irrigate the trees plus to water the grass. It was common when the land in Stewart Tract was planted in watermelons 20 years ago for water to seep to the surface even as late as June. That’s due to the close proximity to the San Joaquin River.

As such, most of the water is returned to the high water table in a matter of weeks.

The use of decomposed granite for parking is designed to eliminate the use of watering trucks to further conserve water.

Dell’Osso Farm will provide 450 jobs during November with 100 of those workers staying on for Holidays on the Farm. In addition 20 regional non-profits provide manpower to raise funds.