We had the best time this past weekend at one of the ‘harvest festivals’ that are ubiquitous on the Island at this time of year. But the Coastal Black Pumpkin Fest isn’t just any old event created as an adjunct to the Black Creek winery’s everyday business – it is a focused, meticulously planned family affair with amazing attention to detail, providing a first-class experience for young and old alike.
Located just a few kilometers north of Courtenay off a pretty rural road, Coastal Black Estate Winery specializes in producing fruit wines and mead. Its 400-plus acres sprawl between fields of pumpkins, gourds and, of course, fruits. At the rate things are going however, it may soon be that the popular annual Pumpkin Fest, now in to its third year, eclipses the winery side of things. Organizers estimate that they will see anywhere between 15,000 and 18,000 people of all ages attending the festival this year.
We headed up to Black Creek on a lovely Saturday and joined hundreds of folks, mostly with little kids in tow, to take in the wonders of Pumpkin Fest. One of the things that I loved about the event is that portions of the nominal entry fee are donated to worthwhile charities. But there was lots of other stuff to like too!
The covered event barn was a major activity centre, with pumpkin bowling, pumpkin ring toss and a hay bale maze, all of which had the little ones on the go. The Country Kitchen offered up simple sustenance under cover as well.
We spent quite a bit of time watching the youngsters enjoying themselves, explored the hay bale maze, then headed down the hill along a pumpkin-lined path to enjoy a ride around the farm on one of the two hay wagons. And, the new star attraction this year – a solar-powered pumpkin trebuchet/catapult that launched pumpkins chosen by attendees towards distance markers. It’s funny how something so simple can hold the attention of so many for such long periods, but that it did. Who would have thought that watching pumpkins go splat in a field could be so mesmerizing?
Heading back up the slope towards lunch we paused to watch families hunting down their perfect pumpkin in the fields, washing them off in the unique pumpkin bath, and then hauling them back up the hill to the weigh and pay station. There are dozens of different varieties to choose from – orange, white, smooth, warty, big and small.
We enjoyed tasty wood-fired artisan pizza for lunch, opting for a picnic table in the shade rather than the sunny patio area where we also could have ordered a local ale. We finished lunch with (what else!?) a slice of pumpkin pie.
While this is obviously a hugely successful family event, it appeals to those of us in our more sedate years as well. The energy and engagement of the kids was a happy thing to see, and it was lovely to see families out together enjoying the rural ambiance, fresh air and fine autumn weather.
The Coastal Black Pumpkin Fest runs every weekend in October, plus Thanksgiving Monday, so there is still plenty of time to make the trek and enjoy this most extraordinary event. Further information on the Pumpkin Fest can be found at the website:
Coastal Black Estate Winery is located at 2186 Endall Road, Black Creek
GPS co-ordinates are:
Lat. 49.817998 Long. -125.139939
N 49 49.080 W 125 08.396