Vala’s Pumpkin Patch gets visitors in the mood for autumn


By Josh Bashara

There are a myriad of things to get you in the mood for autumn and Halloween — pumpkins, dead leaves and hay or caramel apples, hot cider and haunted houses.

All these things and more can be found in one convenient package at the Halloween phantasmal wonderland known as Vala’s Pumpkin Patch.

Tucked away in the farmlands of Gretna, Vala’s has been entertaining those both young and old for almost 18 years. Owners Tim and Jan Vala originally had the idea to start a “pick-your-own” farm operation in 1981. After researching the business and buying a patch of land to host their dream, the Valas set up shop and opened their pumpkin patch in 1985.

For $7.50 you (free for children 2 and under) can enjoy all Vala’s has to offer for an entire day and night.

The moment you set foot inside, orange and black dcor surrounds you at every turn. The scent of hay and dirt fill your nostrils, along with a faint whiff of apple cider and caramel, beckoning you in further.

One of the first things you’ll want to do is pay a visit to a few attractions, namely the haunted houses. Fun as they may be, the haunted houses at Vala’s are mainly geared toward a younger audience, so don’t expect to have a coronary upon entering.

The Haunted Farmhouse and Spook Shed are two haunted houses geared for children and adults, the latter aimed at children 6 and under.

The Haunted Trail and Graveyard is an eerie walk-through area for all ages. Faux gravestones have been erected, displaying the names and information of visitors to the pumpkin patch who have purchased their own tombstones over the years.

When you start feeling a little friskier, you may want to try out the Scarecrow Maze. The maze is a fun labyrinth of cornstalks that probably won’t test a college student’s mettle but is fun when it’s dark out nonetheless.

One of the newer attractions, the Lost Pumpkin Mine, is a walk-through cavern featuring animated, gnome-like creatures everywhere whining about their mining jobs.

One of the more peculiar attractions at Vala’s is the Pigtucky Derby Pig Races, in which pigs are corralled and raced greyhound-style. Although fun to watch for a few minutes, it loses its appeal after a short while. A few friendly little wagers between your friends might spice things up a little, though.

After romping through Vala’s for a few hours, you may begin to feel a little ravenous. Festive food awaits you, such as caramel apples, kettle corn, apple cider, hot cocoa, funnel cakes and corn dogs. Huge turkey drumsticks, while a little overpriced, really hit the spot when your stomach is growling like a little ghoul.

Take-out bakery goods and candy are available at The Country Bakery and the Sweet Shoppe, respectively.

When all is said and done and your feet grow weary and pockets start getting empty, it’s time for the climax of your trip to get underway.

A staple of Vala’s Pumpkin Patch — the old-fashioned hayrack ride — is what brings customers year after year. Rustic enough to give you that harvest feel, yet scenic enough to keep your eyes open with anticipation, the hayrack puts you in the middle of a sea of pumpkins to choose from. A word to the wise for those who take the ride – you may want to bring allergy medicine along.

Not to be outdone by similar pumpkin patches around town, Vala’s boasts a huge, 55-acre smorgasbord of pumpkins to satisfy your pumpkin-carving desires.

Part of the fun of comes from picking out your perfect pumpkin straight from the field they’re grown in, often having to pull the pumpkin from its stem yourself.

A great place to hit at least once every October, Vala’s is a place you can visit with a date or a group of friends and have a great time all day for around $20 each, including admission.

Vala’s is located at 12102 S. 180th St. in Gretna (a mile south of Highway 370 on 180th St.). Call 332-4200 or visit for more information.


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