This fall, think outside the costume box for a fun, festive pumpkin picking party that your friends and family will remember for years to come! You can turn any occasion into an event, so why not make your annual trek to the pumpkin farm a group adventure? It's a super easy, casual way to host a party that everyone will enjoy.
Make Your Plan
Invite a handful of friends or families over for a weekend afternoon and try to keep it small so it's not so stressful coordinating the ride between the patch and your place. Plan for an hour or two at the farm, and then another couple of hours for carving and partying at your house afterwards.
Try to contact the farm ahead of time to get the lay of the land. Ask if they offer hay rides or have a corn maze or other fun activities that you might want to incorporate into your day. You might even be able to score a group rate.
Set the Scene
You can probably get lots of your party décor supplies at the farm. Grab bales of hay and bundles of corn stalks for decorating your entrance, and creating a fun photo opp for the party. Stock up on cider and pick up lots of mini pumpkins, gourds, Indian corn to use as well. For flowers? Fall-hued mums are the way to go.
Hit a craft store or drug store to pick up plenty pumpkin carving supplies and prizes for the best jack o'lantern design. Let your creative flag fly with stuff like googly eyes, feathers, pom poms, glitter glue, sharpies, hats ... the sky’s the limit. Small novelty toys, candy corn, or pumpkin shaped candy are great to use for prizes and party treats. Be sure you've got plenty of gear to scoop out your pumpkins ... ice cream scoops and melon ballers work wonders!
Pro Tip: If the weather allows and you've got the space, set up the carving and decorating activity outside on a newspaper-covered table with trash-bag lined garbage cans nearby to keep the mess to a minimum.
Feed the Folks
Keep your menu simple so you can have fun carving pumpkins when you get back from the farm, too! Choose a make-ahead recipe for your main dish and go for something warm, and crowd-pleasing like a simple chili or my Beer Braised Shredded Pork Tacos. Prep all your fixin's ahead of time too, and store them in small serving bowls so you can just pull them out of the fridge when you get home.
Pro Tip: This is the perfect time to pull your crock pot off that top shelf, or borrow one from one of your guests before you head to the patch.
Other menu ideas? Try my Salad with Roasted Pears, Gorgonzola and Maple-Balsamic for a nice healthy addition. To keep it simple for the sweet stuff, think cider donuts, mini pies, pumpkin bread, and cookies from the farm. Or you could pre-prepare my Pumpkin Pie Mini Cheesecakes or Sweet Potato Quick Bread with Pumpkin Seeds (substitute plain canned pumpkin for the sweet potato purée if you want to stay on theme).
Cider from the farm is a no-brainer beverage to serve. Leave it as is or funk it up with some mulling spices or rum to serve warm. (Leave some booze-free for the little ones or designated drivers). Seasonal pumpkin ale and hard cider pair well with this menu; and be sure to offer plain beer and sodas as well. Set everything up in coolers or a large tub before heading to the patch. You can also pack a cooler of drinks to enjoy on the farm post-pumpkin picking.
Set up a bar with other warm drinks like coffee, cocoa, and tea for cold hands. (For more coffee bar ideas, check this post: Create a Cozy Coffee Happy Hour.)
Before sending everyone out to the fields, set a time to meet back at the parking lot and don’t stress about keeping the whole party together. Grab farm goodies to take back to the party and maybe get extra pumpkins in case people want a decorating do-over. If there’s a picnic spot at the farm, make a plan to regroup there to enjoy treats and cider before taking the group back to your place for food, drinks, and pumpkin carving fun.
For your pumpkin decorating contest, you can award prizes for the best pumpkin self-portrait, the scariest scowl, the goofiest grin or the cleverest carving technique. My favorite trick is using the gnarly stem as my jack o'lantern's nose and carving a face around that for instant personality.
Little pumpkin patchers will love a quick game of Pin the Nose on the Jack o'Lantern. Just grab a wall-hanging from the craft store with a big pumpkin on it and give each kid a black triangle with their name written on it to use as the nose.
If you're patchers are the grown up version, you can create a fun drinking game out of just about any pumpkin-themed movie. Take a drink every time they say Jack Skellington's name during The Nightmare Before Christmas, or place bets on how many times they say “Great Pumpkin” in the iconic Charlie Brown special.
Be sure you snap everyone's photo in front of your awesome corn stalk and hay bail display before they head home. Then email the shots to them the next day as a fun way to say thanks for coming and see you next year!
What are your favorite fall traditions?