The pumpkin patch in Ham Lake screams American: a light-up McDonald’s sign is mounted on a barn wall, Indian corn is for sale, and visitors pose for photos with a Charlie Brown statue beside steam-roller-sized bales of hay.
How did Anoka County Farms, located nearby the self-proclaimed “Halloween Capital of the World,” wrangle the massive, paint-chipped Snoopy dog bowl from a retired mall display? Or the doghouse signed by Twins players once located at the Metrodome?
“I just knew somebody that knew somebody,” said owner Scott Bromley, who also owns a printing company.
Anoka County Farms is celebrating 10 years as a seasonal attraction open until Oct. 31. The family-run pumpkin farm now draws 20,000 visitors in denim a year to let their young spirits loose on a moon bounce, pony ride or swing set.
“Instead of driving to Wisconsin, we wanted something in our community,” Bromley said inside the barn on his 65-acre property.
Elizabeth Bromley, Scott’s wife, took shifts at the counter, selling caramel apples and cider to early evening visitors. Fall is the ticket around here.
“Kids are always asking when we open because they can’t wait,” said Elizabeth Bromley, who tells them, “when the leaves change colors.”
Outside, young, flannel-clad couples push toddlers around in provided red wagons. Kids paint jack-be-quicks at a picnic table. Adults admire the classic orange car or model Farmall tractor. Women’s shelters schedule private outings on Friday afternoons to make memories with their kids, and Boy and Girl Scout troops book visits, too.
The concept has grown from simply planting pumpkins to acquiring a vintage fire pit, more decorative than functional, and a rickety-looking, wooden piano.
“Every year, something gets added, said Jerrit Bromley, 32, whose wife, Amber, has also joined in. “A lot of people have seen kids [at the farm] since they were 1 year old — and now they’re 11,” he said.
By the Snoopy bowl, two 30-something parents who can recall the record 1991 Halloween blizzard graciously captured their three kids in the sun.
“It’s kind of fun to take the same pictures at the same place,” said Dave Baker of Andover.
They drive by the farm all the time, anxious for the autumn opening.
“This is our last hoorah till we get dumped on with snow,” Baker, 37, said. “We gotta celebrate that.”