Pumpkinfest returns to MSU Tollgate Farm for the 7th season
Families choose pumpkins in the MSU Tollgate Farm pumpkin patch during a final pumpkin feast in Novi.
NOVI – Pull out the sweaters, light those apple-scented candles and get ready to hunt for the perfect pumpkin as fall has officially arrived, and MSU’s annual Tollgate Farm Pumpkinfest will be back from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 2 and October 3.
âI am delighted that people are coming back to the farm in person for such a happy event. One of the hallmarks of this event is that people are just here to enjoy the farm, and everyone seems to be happy to be here. To have that and to provide a place for everyone to come and celebrate fall on the farm is very important to me, âsaid MSU Tollgate’s agricultural education coordinator, Ellen Koehler. âI am also very motivated to help support the education that is here and to make this education accessible to all. “
Although the festival has been around for eight years, this is only its seventh consecutive season. The event was canceled in 2020.
In the festival’s inaugural year, Koehler said, only around 300 attendees came. The following year, however, “There was a big change.” Up to 5,000 people attended the second year of Pumpkinfest, which Koehler attributes to changes in planning and a greater effort to build connections in the community.
âWe are very happy to be able to offer this festival to the community. We have so many ties to the community. I think people were waiting until they could go out (and) enjoy the fall colors and be on the farm, âshe said. âWe are that gathering place for them. “
The return of the festival in 2021 comes with some changes from the COVID-19 pandemic, the first of which is that the festival will be mostly outdoors this year.
âEverything is outside, but our concessions will be in our outdoor barn, and this is the only area, or washrooms, where we ask people to hide,â Koehler said. The farm has also increased the number of wagons available to take customers to the pumpkin patch so runners can be further apart during their journey.
Aside from additional pandemic safety protocols, Koehler said much of the festival should look like those who have visited it before.
âWe have some iconic Farm and Pumpkinfest activities coming back this year,â Koehler said, including catch and release fishing at the pond dock; a Wacky Water Critters program, where young people can study the pond and search for macroinvertebrates; the pumpkin patch and wagon rides; a maze of straw; a cow eye dissection workshop; and a bounce house.
The festival will also feature a number of farm animals, which the farm shares with its 4-H club, as well as horse shows, live music in the pavilion, and taekwondo and drawing demonstrations.
Educational opportunities will be offered at this year’s festival, including MSU Extension’s Bug House and 20 other exhibitors which will be located under the âDiscovery Zone,â Koehler said.
âThere will be educational exhibits of historical commissions, sharing historical toys; we have 4-H sharing opportunities through 4-H; (and) we have gardening activities, âshe added. âI think at this point we have 20 educational exhibitors. Each of these tables will have some type of interactive component.
Those who attend Pumpkinfest are helping MSU Tollgate Farm give even more back to the community throughout the event.
“It is through this program that we are able to provide financial assistance to schools, families or individuals in difficulty to participate in the programs,” said Koehler.
âProceeds from this event benefit or support the farm’s educational programming and our financial aid program.
For main sponsor Vibe Credit Union, giving back is the reason the credit union continues to partner with the Farm Festival. âGiving back to the community is one of our core tenets, and MSU Tollgate Farm is one of our favorite partners,â Linda Smith, Marketing Director of Vibe Credit Union, said in an email.
The credit union has sponsored the event since 2016, Koehler added. Additional sponsors include Ascension Health, the Goddard School of Novi, and more.
The festival takes a holistic approach to setting up and running, said Koehler, who at one point included as many as 200 volunteers working alongside part-time and full-time staff. This year’s festival is still looking for volunteers to register and help.
âThis year we are always looking for additional volunteers, but we have dedicated people to come and help with this event. It’s like a big community. That’s what excites me: bringing the community together again, âsaid Koehler.
For more information, visit canr.msu.edu/events/msu-tollgate-farm-pumpkinfest-october-2021. To volunteer, visit signupgenius.com/go/4090f49aba82ba7ff2-pumpkinfest5.