Pumpkins and More at the Tolay Fall Festival
October 10, 2012Posted by andrew |
Many families in Marin and the North Bay have fond memories of visiting the popular pumpkin patch at Cardoza Ranch outside Petaluma. In 2005, the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation & Open Space District and the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department acquired Cardoza Ranch, also known as Tolay Lake Ranch, turning its 1,737 acres of farmland into a county park.
Tolay Lake Ranch is a unique spot, with a freshwater lake, wetlands, diverse wildlife, and 8,000 years human habitation with extensive archaeological and historical sites. Tolay Lake Regional Park is currently under development and access is restricted, although the public can now make use of the park through a day-use permit program.
However, I'm sure what's on many people's minds is "What happened to the pumpkin patch?" The Sonoma Regional Parks Department has kept the spirit of the old Cardoza pumpkin patch alive by holding the annual Tolay Fall Festival, now in its seventh year. This popular event takes place over two long weekends in October; the Tolay Fall Festival 2012 happens Thursday–Sunday, October 11–14 and Wednesday–Sunday October 17–21. The Festival is open on weekdays from 9 am–3 pm and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 am–5 pm.
In addition to Halloween pumpkins in the huge pumpkin patch, this year's festival features a plentiful harvest of gourds, squash, multi-colored corn, and other produce, as well as a pumpkin seed-spitting contest, ranger-led hay rides, a giant straw maze, a Native American village with demonstrations, the Night Time Creatures Barn with the Creepy Crawly Critters Room, live animals, nature hikes, old-fashioned crafts , lawn games, and more.
It's definitely worth a visit this season! We've attended the last few years and will be there again this weekend. Highlights for us included the hands-on traditional farm acitivites for kids, like making corn-husk dolls and candle dipping, and the Night Time Creatures Barn, where we got up close and personal with a variety of nocturnal critters, including the park's resident barn owls. There's almost too much to do! It's definitely worth your time this fall. There are also plenty of places to have a picnic, so you can bring your lunch if you like. You'll also find an assortment of food vendors there, too. You can read about our visit to the 2011 Tolay Fall Festival here.
If You Go
The Tolay Fall Festival 2012 takes place Thursday–Sunday, October 11–14 and Wednesday–Sunday October 17–21. Hours are 9 am–3 pm on weekdays and 11 am–5 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Admission is $4 for ages 13 and up and $1 for kids 12 and under. There's a $7 parking fee per car (free with a Sonoma County Regional Parks membership).
Tolay Lake Regional Park is located off Lakeville Highway, at Cannon Lane, just outside of Petaluma. It's about equidistant between Highways 37 and 101. To get there from Marin, take Highway 101 to 37 and follow it east to the Lakeville Highway intersection. Turn left onto Lakeville Highway at the traffic signal, and follow it to Cannon Lane. Turn right on Cannon Lane and follow it to Tolay Lake Regional Park.
For more information on Tolay Lake Regional Park and the Tolay Fall Festival, visit www.sonoma-county.org/parks/pk_tolay_fallfestival.htm or call (707) 565-2401. You can also download field trip request forms for school group outings to the Festival on weekdays on their website.