What is orange, round and 10 feet in diameter that can get a 60-year-old farmer that’s 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds and arguably the biggest kid in Lathrop to the edge of his corn field without walking, driving, running, bicycling or even flying?
It’s Ron Dell’Osso in a giant pumpkin ball. He’s the inventor of the pumpkin blasters that shatter over 250,000 mini-pumpkins used as ammo each a year as young and old make their way to his family farm
The third generation Lathrop-Manteca farmer on Thursday was testing one of six new attractions for this year’s 20th annual Pumpkin Maze that opens Saturday — The Giant Pumpkin Roll.
The attractions consist of 16 Zorb balls that are known to some as human hamster balls. Guests buying entrance tickets can race on the Zorb balls against others on a large grassy field adjacent to the 15-acre corn field that encompasses three mazes.
“We were wondering what we could do with the large grass field,” Susan Dell’Osso said of how the latest attraction came about.
She actually came up with the idea. Ron decided they had to be orange and marked like pumpkins. That was the easy part. They scrambled to find Zorb ball manufacturers in the United States but couldn’t. Finally they contacted a firm in China. A tight delivery schedule allowed the Zorb balls to clear customs on Wednesday and be delivered on Thursday to Lathrop as the final details for this year’s 31-day run at Dell’Osso Farms at Manthey Road and Interstate 5 in Lathrop were being made.
On Thursday Ron challenged his wife and older brother Michael to a race. The three gigantic air-filled plastic balls started rolling as the trio tried to figure the best way to pick up speed. Michael appeared to favor a hamster style while his brother made a diving move to try and pick up speed at the finish line and ended up tumbling over himself inside the Zorb ball.
“It was like trying to dive to a base,” Ron said after crawling out the access portal. “It’s a lot of fun to do but I think people watching them are going to have more fun. . . . It is a workout.”
There is a 6-foot-3 height limit and a 36-inch minimum.
Also new this year:
Three high strikers or strongman games designed for various levels where participants take a mallet and try to send a puck p a tower to strike a bell.
two giant checker boards.
Amish made playground-style attractions made out of wood that includes a Jeep and train kids can climb and crawl over.
a giant slide like you see at carnivals.
Barnyard Baseball, Barnyard Football, and Barnyard Basketball where participants shoot mini basketball into hoops or throw baseballs/footballs thru holes.
They have also added a stage for entertainment although there won’t be musicians playing opening weekend.
This will mark the first year that all attractions — save for six— will be collapsed into the price of one general admission ticket.
In making the switch, Dell’Osso Farms will also go to demand pricing for the combined ticket for 18 of their 24 attractions.
High traffic times Friday through Sunday will be $17.95 per person while the price drops to $13.95 Monday through Thursday. There is an early bird special Monday through Friday for $10 that’s available from 10 a.m.
“It’s our way of encouraging locals to come out on weekdays when the crowds aren’t here and to have fun,” Susan said.
She noted opening weekend — the first of five for the run that goes through Oct. 31 — is traditionally the lightest. Most of the 160,000 annual guests come during the final three weeks of the month.
She also expects people to stay longer given the near universal access the new ticketing system provides.
Excluded from the general admission tickets are gem mining, pumpkin blasters, zip lines, and pony rides that will all cost $6 apiece to access. Pumpkin painting is $5. Tickets will be sold at the specific attractions. There are separate charges for food, drinks, and general store items.
Based on the ammo consumed during the past 14 years, the number of mini-pumpkins sent sailing at speeds approaching 100 miles per hour as they are fired from bazooka-like pumpkin blasters toward various targets should surpass 5 million this year.
Today is the fifth year the restricted pre-opening event takes place at Dell’Osso Farms for 2,000 special needs students from throughout the 209 area that is coordinated by Kiwanis member Elaine Thompson.
For more information go to www.pumpkinmaze.com.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org