Not all Halloween season attractions have to have hockey masked actors and ghoulish special effects around every other corner. Sometimes the best way to celebrate the autumnal spirit is with a pleasant trip to somewhere wholesome, replete with hay bale castles, a practically limitless supply of pumpkins, and a cannon designed to fire them as far as a mile away where they explode on impact. This is the essence of Papa’s Pumpkin Patch, a little farm in Bismarck devoted solely to quaint family fun.

A great deal of the charm of Papa’s Pumpkin Patch comes from how they use old things to decorate the place every year. In the true spirit of Midwestern sensibility, old pallets, satellite dishes, tractor tires, and other farm equipment are incorporated into the attraction, giving it a real rustic feel. The result is that it’s somewhere authentic and spirited, and not some fiberglass imposter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The straw fortresses aren’t the only things at Papa’s that will drop little jaws. Slides, swings, zip lines, pony rides, and even a four foot deep pit of corn kernels will all impress kids — “their eyes get as big as golf balls,” as the owner Dave Pearce put it. They’ll especially light up when they see Billy Bob the Cornstalk Horse, a great equestrian effigy that will make them say “shucks!”

This is the time of year when you need to invest in squashes, and to say Papa’s has that covered is something of an understatement. They sell around 50,000 pumpkins and gourds from local growers annually, encompassing everything from sugar pie pumpkins to decorative varietals to 100 pound behemoths that are perfect for jack-o’-lanterns. Papa’s even offers pumpkins that are roomy enough to carve functional boats out of. This has been tested before.

If your main criticism of squashes is that they’re so seldom airborne, Papa’s has got your particular tastes well in mind. Thanks to the peerless efforts of the North Dakota Society of Professional Engineers, Papa’s owns an enormous air pressure cannon that can launch a small gourd practically into low orbit. Geese have been observed to steer out of the way of Papa’s orange projectiles. They have a trebuchet to send pumpkins flying and corn cob slingshots as well, and they demonstrate their unique arsenal every half hour.

Papa’s Pumpkin Patch has great things for guests of all ages. Go to see this fall-time attraction at 5001 Fernwood Drive in Bismarck from September 9th until October 20th. When you do, don’t miss the chance to take home a warty goblin pumpkin — it’s the most aptly named item of produce ever conceived, and certain to become like a member of your family.


By David Scheller