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Lombardi Ranch: Where families find that fall feeling

Posted: October 10, 2008 12:39 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.

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If you let your mind wander freely, you can imagine the dirt path is the Yellow-Brick Road, and that you're traveling in Oz.

Walled-in by gigantic sunflowers, with "scarecrows" popping up around each bend, you're in a storybook playground for children - and for adults who are willing to pause in their right-brains.

This is Scarecrow Alley at Lombardi Ranch. And, it's just one of the many attractions that bring families together at this cherished seasonal playground in Saugus.

Family-owned, Lombardi Ranch has been offering fresh produce to Santa Clarita Valley residents for 43 years. The "Pumpkin Festival," which brings a charming sense of fall to our climate-challenged landscape, has been an icon since 1989.

In those years the festival has touched so many hearts that, when last October's brush fire ravaged the farm, the community turned out to help. This, in turn, convinced the Lombardis that the ranch should stay open.

"After the fire, the people were so generous ... with all the community support ... it's just a family tradition. The (Lombardi) kids got together and realized how important it was," said Barbara Grey, the checkout stand supervisor. A 10-year veteran of the ranch, she added, "It's a wonderful place to work, the happiest place in Santa Clarita."

From late September, when the community-made scarecrows are set up, through the end of October, the ranch bustles with activity. Open seven days a week from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m., weekends are chock-full of scheduled activities such as bake sales, high school band shows, craft fairs and live music from top-shelf performers.

Concurrently, children (and their parents) can enjoy Scarecrow Alley, the petting zoo, train rides, wagon rides, pony rides, a corn maze and face painting. They can also play on the hay bale pyramid, police wagon, fire engine and inside two gigantic jack-o-lanterns.

All of this, of course, revolves around purchasing your pumpkins for fall and/or Halloween décor. With rows of pumpkins of various sizes covering thousands of square yards, one of the highlights is the section of Big Mac pumpkins. These gigantic natural creations reach the size of a footstool (and larger) and are becoming more and more popular as front-porch decorations.

There are also myriad gourds, plus Indian corn, corn stalks and straw available at the check-out stand.

Here you can also find onions, cucumbers, squash, bell peppers, chili peppers, tomatoes and honey. That way, even if you aren't looking for a pumpkin, you can turn your produce shopping into an adventure for your kids.

Whatever you do at Lombardi Ranch, be sure to visit Scarecrow Alley. In addition to the amazing sunflowers, with flower heads as big as dinner plates standing six to eight feet off the ground, there are the namesake scarecrows.

Families and community groups, such as scout packs, let their imaginations run wild to create these. This year's offerings include "Indiana Crows and the Temple of the Gold Kernel" (featuring crows, of course), "Pump-Kin-Go" (with a gas station theme), and "Pretty Scarey Fairys" (yes, that's the way they spelled it).

Those familiar with Lombardi Ranch from years past will notice the changes induced by last year's fire. The Chuckwagon snack shack is brand new and freshly painted, and there are aluminum roofs over the band stand and the party area.

Though you might not realize it, the police wagon and fire engine had to be repaired and repainted after the fire. Surprisingly, one thing that didn't burn was the wood-and-chicken-wire checkout stand.

So never fear. As always, Lombardi Ranch is still the place to take your children in October.

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