No one celebrates Fall quite like the Cheesemans of Portersville.
Since 1999, the family has transformed 60 acres of their farmland into hosting ground for two of Western Pennsylvania’s most anticipated events: The Pumpkin Festival and Fright Farm.
This weekend, the Cheesemans will open their barn doors up to the public for a fifteenth consecutive year with the commencement of Fright Farm on Friday, Sept. 26, at 7 p.m. Then, on Saturday, Sept. 27, at noon, the Pumpkin Festival begins. According to Jen Cheeseman, the family took a chance and grew pumpkins, which sparked the idea of creating the events over a decade-and-a-half ago.
“We never did pumpkins before, so we just kind of went with it. My dad drove the tractor, and my mom and I sat on the trailer it pulled and planted each seed,”
Cheeseman said. “It took about two days, and we covered seven or eight acres of land. Then, we built the barn for a pumpkin festival, and decided to do Halloween, too.”
Each year, on Sept. 1, the family hires 50-60 employees to help bring Fright Farm and the Pumpkin Festival to life. This year, some new attractions were added to enhance the already-appealing lineup for guests to enjoy.
“We have a haunted house this year, which we never really had before. There were a few sections of houses, but never a full house, so that will be fun. Also, we added a new trail called the ‘Death-defying Walking Trail.’ And, the corn maze is much bigger,” Cheeseman explained. “We have about three-and-a-half weeks to get ready for this, so it takes a lot of work. But, I know [the employees] have fun. Some of them are real Halloween Junkies.”
The main attraction for both events is a hayride through the property, though there is quite a difference between the one that occurs during the day and the one that happens “at dark.” The Pumpkin Festival hayride takes guests to the pumpkin field where they can pick out their favorite pumpkins and squash to purchase.
At night, the Haunted Hayride takes a few detours into frightening terrain more suitable for mature audiences.
Throughout the year, Cheeseman’s Farm typically serves as a camping area, as well as a venue for large-scale events such as weddings and birthday parties, but the family puts a hold on that side of the business from the end of August until the beginning of November. Though, most people become interested in renting the barn and land when they attend Fright Farm and the Pumpkin Festival.
“We actually get most of our wedding and camping customers this time of year,” Cheeseman said. “People find out that we use the barn for weddings as they walk through. In fact, one section of the Fright Farm that people walk through is a camping ground. It is very peaceful. [Guests] really seem to enjoy it when they come.”
While the Cheesemans’ events occur on weekends, the owners still take time to acknowledge their weekly visitors and primary attractions. Field trips and fundraising events fill up the weeks leading up to the Friday through Sunday activities.
“During the week, we have school groups come in for 2-hour field trips, which include movies, pumpkins, animals, and teepee story time. The kids all get a pumpkin, too. It has been huge over the past couple of years,” Cheeseman said. “People also come here to host fundraisers for autism, Eastern Stars, and the Humane Society.”
Food, beverages, and merchandise are all available for purchase at Cheeseman’s during Fright Farm and the Pumpkin Festival. Visitors can enjoy hot cider and/or chocolate, popcorn, and funnel cake. Also, a wood fire brick oven was added last year in order to bake fresh pizza.
“People can come and enjoy some good food, and have some fun,” Cheeseman said. “The best part of all of this is seeing people come every year and sort of grow up in front of us. It’s really cool to see, and we are glad they come.”
Cheeseman’s Fright Farm is open every Friday and Saturday evening from 7 p.m. through 10 p.m., or until the last ticketed guest finishes the ride. The Pumpkin Festival occurs every Saturday and Sunday from noon until 5 p.m. Both events run until Nov. 1.
For more information on Cheeseman’s Farms, please visit cheesemanfarm.com.