Sarasota, FL. This past weekend, my favorite season quietly returned bringing cinnamon brooms and pumpkin lattes back into play. The cool crisp air, should it ever come, will remind us that hoodies need to be freshly laundered and boots dusted. The trees will release their leaves to ride the next wind gust slowly to the ground. As a child, I liked nothing more than trompsing through a big pile of colorful leaves, seeing how far I could kick them in the air. And raking them up? I didn’t even mind the extra work, or the stern looks from my dad as I made giant fluffy piles to jump into.
I know it’s difficult to catch the fall spirit when we’re sitting in air-conditioned homes with shorts and t-shirts on. Stepping outside lately feels like taking the lid off a hot, steamy pot of soup and with the onset of red tide, it’s a smelly soup. Retailers like Walmart and Target have been trying to get us in the autumn mood for weeks now with pumpkin displays and apple cider spilling out of the aisles and we are ready! Now, if only Mother Nature would comply with our wishes and send us some lowered temperatures all would be well.
Cool weather or not, Fruitville Grove is gearing up for a dynamic Pumpkin Festival this year. They are celebrating their 30th anniversary and are proud to have decades under their belt as one of Sarasota’s premiere produce stands. Their festivals have become a regional draw to the area and attending these events is a right of passage for local kids. We caught up with owner, Kim White, who is beyond excited about this year’s events and the impressive milestone they are celebrating.
If you’ve been around Sarasota for any amount of time then you’ve certainly visited Fruitville Grove just east of I-75 on Fruitville Road. Watching this little produce stand evolve into a mega farm store and festival destination has been fun. For locals, stocking up on fresh produce at Fruitville Groves on a Saturday morning is a ritual they gladly participate in. Many varieties of non-certified organic produce and citrus grow in their own fields but neighboring farmers are also sourced to sell their goods at the stand. A nice selection of Amish goods is available for purchase as well, including breads, jams, and cheeses. But, let’s get to the real stars of Fruitville Grove—the goats.
Did you ever dream of a day when “goat yoga” would be a real thing? This strange fad has taken the internet by storm with people across the world taking selfies of goats perched on their backs while they execute a perfect downward dog yoga pose. Seems a little strange, but according to Kim, goat yoga at Fruitville Grove has become so popular they are adding more classes to accommodate the growing popularity. She has seen firsthand how the goats offer an added level of comfort and relaxation, plus, they’re just cute.
It takes relaxing with goats to gear up for an event the size of the Pumpkin Festival. Hundreds of hours of planning and preparing are required to execute a safe and successful event for the community. According to Kim, it can only be described as a “labor of love.” Though similar events in the area charge for parking and admission, the Pumpkin Festival has never assessed these fees to visitors, something the Fruitville Grove folks are proud of. All they ask is that visitors please purchase a pumpkin on their way out. The pumpkins, Kim says, are an important part of the financial equation in keeping the parking and admission free in the future.
This year’s event will be larger than ever with special features added to commemorate their 30th year. Hayrides, animal petting zoo, bungee jump, and a moon bounce are just a few of the fun activities your family can enjoy. Local vendors will be there selling homemade crafts and you’ll be able to stock up on fall decorations including gourds, hay bales, Indian corn and garden scarecrows. A bevy of food trucks will serve festival foods including fresh-squeezed lemonade and hand-dipped ice cream. A mini-train ride and large playground area will delight your wee-ones and there are plenty of shady areas to rest under. Additional surprises will be added to the roster.
Fruitville Grove farm store hours are Monday through Saturday 9:00 to 6:00 and Sunday 10:00 to 4:00. The festival runs every weekend in October, from 10:00 to 5:00 Saturdays and Sundays. Come on out, and don’t forget to purchase a pumpkin before you leave. Fall is here, folks! It might be too soon for boots and sweaters but perusing a pumpkin patch in your flip flops can be fun too. For more information on the festival and farm store, please visit their FB page here.
Photos courtesy of Fruitville Grove Facebook page.