1 November 1996

GOURD TIMES

AT PUMPKIN

FESTIVITIES

Pumpkin lanterns by the score glowed in a Sussex barn recently, cut by

children and adults for the annual competition at Tulleys Farm Pumpkin Festival. Tessa Gates joined the fun

THE crowd counted in unison – 10..9..8……….3..2..1 then let out a collective ….ooH as the lights went out and over l50 candle-lit carved pumpkins seemed to come to life.

The highlight of the third annual pumpkin festival at Tulleys Farm, Turners Hill, Sussex didnt disappoint and it was hard to tell who was more entranced by the pumpkin lanterns, adults or children.

Tulleys Farm, run by two generations of the Beare family – Denis and Marion and their son Stuart and his wife Sara – is a 131ha (325acre) enterprise known for its pick-your-own crops and busy farm shop and tea rooms. The farm grows about 6000 pumpkins each year and shop customers who buy a pumpkin are invited to enter it, suitably carved, into the free competition at the Pumpkin Festival which is held on the first Saturday of the half term holidays in October.

"This is very much a pumpkin festival rather than a Halloween one. We have schools and Brownies entering pumpkins and we dont want to be anti-Christ," says Stuart Beare, who was busy dodging wayward balls thrown at the pumpkin shy, just one of the many games for the public to take part in.

"The festival has a fête atmosphere. It is free to get in and while the idea is to sell pumpkins, and many people buy them for this and again later for Halloween, it helps keep our shop on the map," he says.

It certainly drew the crowds. Despite the rain, children thronged the pumpkin grotto, which became an impromptu climbing course as they clambered on the piles of squashes. In other buildings, they picked a lucky baby pumpkin. Winners got a bar of chocolate if they found one with a "spot" on it and everyone kept the pumpkin. They threw ping-pong balls into pumpkin targets; wound-in racing pumpkins; guessed the weight of a huge one and the number of pumpkins in the truck, or warmed themselves near the huge bonfire.

It was over all too soon. The winners of the carving competition went home clutching tins of chocolates or farm shop tokens depending on age, and vowing to enter again next year.

Ghouls and ghosties, friendly faces, grinning cats, witches, and even a pumpkin coach pulled by toy horses, glowed into life when the pumpkins were lit.

Pumpkin racing was just one of the attractions. Visitor Thomas King (3), liked this dog (left) while in the grotto a little pumpkin fairy, Kate Beare (21/2) could be found.