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Weapons of smash destruction are the best kind
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The guy was a bit shy at first.

He stood back behind the fence watching others load mini-pumpkins into a bazooka-style pumpkin blaster on Saturday morning at Dell’Osso Farms. His face lit into a smile as his friend aimed and pushed the button that set in motion a white mini-pumpkin hurling through the air at 120 mph to nick the bumper of a junked sedan.

The distinctive din on rock hard pumpkin hitting metal made him laugh.

When he was asked if he was sure that he didn’t want to try it, the guy changed his mind. Soon he had his $5 bucket of ammo - 12 orange and white mini-pumpkins - and was ready to go.

The guy, by the way, was in his 30s. He had been watching his friend’s preschool son smash pumpkins Ron Dell’Osso style. Fun down on the farm in October is a place where kids can be kids and adults can be even bigger kids.

The pumpkin blasters are without a doubt as popular as the day they were introduced. And so is the Pumpkin Maze judging by the steady crowds Saturday.

It took six people to keep up with demand by loading buckets with “live ammo” and trimming back the pumpkin stems on the mini-pumpkin so they wouldn’t jam the blasters.

Most of the mini-pumpkins were grown by Dell’Osso Farms making Ron probably one of the few people in the world who can brag that he grows his own ammo.

By the time the last pumpkin takes flight on Halloween night, guests who come from San Jose, Sacramento, Fresno, and San Francisco among other places will have fired off more than 150,000 mini-pumpkins.

Dell’Osso Farms will probably have set another record with a projected 150,000 people going down to the farm to enjoy a lot of low-tech fun. And the odds are the five-week run of Holidays on the Farm with its manmade snow covering a tubing hill and skate rink plus real reindeer and 500 drive through Christmas light scenes among other attractions will draw better than the 35,000 it did in its inaugural season last year.

That probably has some folks at Disney scratching their heads.

Dell’Osso had pitched his vision of a Disney agricultural amusement park minus Mickey Mouse’s glitz to representatives of the mega-entertainment firm who were busy a few years back licensing farm products with the Disney name.

They passed on the idea. They probably figured the potential for success wasn’t that great besides why would they want to deal with small pumpkins when they can go for mega-glitz and cerate fantasy worlds for people.

Dell’Osso didn’t let that stop him. He’s just kept building on his dream every year. And with every added “corny” attraction the success of the Pumpkin Maze has grown.

The reason is simple. The Pumpkin Maze is a place where your imagination can run wild and little things in life count - like scarecrows and watching your kid zip across water or gingerly making their way across a rope confidence course. It’s a place where imagination is hands on and not created by special effects generated by a computer. People dazzle at the Pumpkin Maze not special effects.

Ron and his wife Susan also wanted to make sure that anyone could drop by the grounds. True, most attractions require payment but there are a few that don’t. They don’t charge for admission or parking and even do the unthinkable in the soak-the-guest world of amusement parks - they allow people to bring their own beverage and food. In fact, they’ve set up picnic areas to encourage people to do just that.

Ron - the quintessential 54-year-old Tom Sawyer - has other ideas including possibly rolling out a spring attraction.

With a little luck, you’ll get to run into Ron if you visit the Pumpkin Maze. You can’t help but recognize him. He’s the big kid with the biggest smile in the place.

Nothing makes him happier than to see other people happy whether it a 1 year-old or a 99-year-old kid.

After all, as Manteca pumpkin patriarch George Perry likes to say, pumpkin growers don’t grow pumpkins they grow smiles.