Is Pumpkinville's popularity due to the October nip in the air? The bounty and color of a fall harvest? The mouthwatering promise of apple and pumpkin treats?
With as many as 90,000 visitors annually during only five weeks of autumn, Pumpkinville in the Town of Humphrey ranks third among Cattaraugus County's attractions -- just behind Allegany State Park and Holiday Valley Ski Resort.
Owner Dan Pawlowski thinks people come primarily for the environment created by the beauty of the changing leaves and the charms of the surrounding hilly countryside.
He said Sunday afternoon he was enjoying "record attendance for this week of the year" because of the weather and the leaves, which were sparked to brilliant yellows, oranges and reds by Wednesday's heavy frost in the Southern Tier.
There is no admission to stroll and share the colors and smells of Pawlowski's barns, but visitors may buy large or small portions of the harvest, which includes items from near and not-so-near.
A single washed apple, from the many varieties shipped from Lake Ontario shoreline growers and arranged irresistibly along the walls of the apple barn in tidy baskets, can be bought -- and munched -- for a quarter. A pint-size pumpkin from Pawlowski's 10-acre pumpkin patch out back costs $1.50. And the largest orange carving pumpkin, the hug-it-and-lug-it-to-the-car variety, costs $8.
Also available are 15 types of squashes, gourds and pumpkins for decorating or imaginatively painted in "Betty's Barn" as you watch. In the "Corn Crib," rows of colorful Indian corn are flanked by tiny ears of popcorn, which spent last winter drying on hangers.
The "Craft Barn" is a place to linger over baked goods, preserves, and other consignment items -- some locally made, such as woolens knitted by the Karn family at the Rusty Wheel Sheep Farm in Cuba and maple syrup bottled by the Maple Haven in Franklinville.
Lambs, piglets, goats, geese, chickens, ducks and beef calves in the "Petting Zoo" bring farm life close to the visitors. When Pumpkinville closes for the season, most return to the Town of Mansfield to live out their lives on Pawlowski's farm.
"These are real animals," said Pawlowski. "A lot of urban people and children have never seen them."
In nearby "Storyland," families may take photos of each other peeking through cut-outs in life-size wooden fairy tale figures or hear a tale told by Perky the Talking Pumpkin.
The thrill of Halloween is also part of the Pumpkinville experience, with a hearse, a spook house and a graveyard bearing tombstones painted with interesting epitaphs such as: "Ole Dan Tucker was a fine ole man; Washed his face in a frying pan; Combed his hair with a wagon wheel; Died with a toothache in his heel."
There is also an outhouse occupied by a skeleton and a giant maze cut out of the huge field-corn patch and dotted with the tombstones of such notable characters as "My Daughter's Last Date."
Pawlowski said the maze, in its first year, is competing with the petting zoo in popularity. The corn field will be cut and fed to his cattle after the season ends.
His wife, son and daughter pitch in to begin the season but return home when school starts, leaving Pawlowski at Pumpkinville to spend nights in a camper.
About 50 workers are employed in two shifts between Labor Day and Halloween, doing a variety of jobs such as parking cars, making crafts and driving the tractor that pulls the wagon on weekend hay rides.
Pumpkinville, which is open 9 a.m. to dusk every day through October, can be reached by turning east on Route 98 from Route 219 at the blinking light intersection in Great Valley or turning west on Route 98 from Route 16 just south of Franklinville.
Pumpkinville is 200 yards from Route 98 on Sugartown Road.