Sweet as it is, the fall season is just too short. Dazzling autumn leaves and all their brilliant colors burst onto the scene suddenly, only to be whisked away on the next windy day.
Fortunately, the Fox Valley Park District makes this glorious season last a little longer with its annual Pumpkin Weekends at Blackberry Farm. During every weekend in October plus Columbus Day -- nine days in all -- fall is celebrated in its full glory.
Already, the leaf-peepers are out and about. The pumpkins are fat and firm. The chilly nights and football tailgate parties confirm that fall is here.
You just can't get too much of this, which is why Pumpkin Weekends were created.
"We used to do a fall festival in October each year, and it was so popular and well-received that we expanded the event to include every weekend," said Sandy Smith, supervisor at Blackberry Farm.
Fall harvest gatherings go back to the times of pioneers -- when locals would toast another bountiful growing season -- so Blackberry Farm is the perfect setting for celebrations like these.
From pioneer days to modern times, the same sense of community lives on with Pumpkin Weekends. The kids will delight in the interactive games and exciting displays, while the adults may very well feel like kids themselves.
One low admission price of $5 includes unlimited rides on the train, carousel, hay wagon and pedal tractor course. Be sure to take a train ride and visit the pumpkin patch at Blackberry to purchase your own pumpkin and paint it right there at the special decorating station.
You figure most of those pumpkins -- and the children who decorate them -- will be adorned with broad smiles.
And with fall colors as the backdrop, the new and popular Adventure Playground is a great place for the kids to hang and for parents to enjoy watching them have fun.
Opened last fall, it's a customized play structure with an extensive network of climbing decks, slides, ropes and catwalk-style bridges connecting an array of playhouses on multiple levels. It also includes a 65-foot zip line that runs between a windmill and a water tower.
The new playground highlights a series of improvements made possible by the 2008 referendum that reinvests funds for community park improvements and other projects. Among those are a 2,500-square-foot entertainment pavilion that serves as a performance stage for live shows -- with new, modern restrooms adjacent -- and a boathouse shelter and dock on the shore of Lake Gregory, where paddle boats will be available for adventure.
Mark the calendar for a couple of special Sundays at Pumpkin Weekends, with a magic show on Oct. 13 and a Trick-or-Treat walk and costume contest on Oct. 20 from noon to 3 p.m.
"We don't have the powers of Mother Nature," said Smith, "but we're doing everything we can to make this season last just a little bit longer."
Hours for Pumpkin Weekends are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Columbus Day from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. For more information, call Blackberry Farm at (630) 892-1550.
• Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District; contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.