Our family's annual Pumpkin Patch Party, held at my sister's country place, is a wonderful way to celebrate fall.

Molly and her husband, Bob Tews, built a home on 5 acres near Dale, Wisconsin. The "farmer" in Bob surfaced when he purchased an old Ford tractor and began planting sweet corn, gourds, sunflowers—and lots of pumpkins.

When the pumpkins are ripe, our relatives gather for the party. Bob hauls us out to the pumpkin patch in a wagon behind his tractor. The kids get to pick their favorite pumpkins. We adults pitch in to pick hundreds more, plus what seems like a million gourds, to divide up and tote home.

Afterward, we have a festive potluck meal at the edge of the field.

Hungry Harvesters Feast

Most everyone's dish-to-pass follows a pumpkin patch or Halloween theme. Scarecrow Chili, Pumpkin Patch Bread, Peter Peter Pumpkin Bars and Spooky Chocolate Cupcakes were delicious choices last year.

The hungry bunch enthusiastically ladled up my thick Scarecrow Chili. It has a hearty flavor but isn't too spicy. Our mother, Helen Kester Baerwald, makes the best Pumpkin Patch Bread! She knows that it's a "must bring."

Spooky Chocolate Cupcakes, decorated with bats, black cats and ghosts, are cute and easy to eat outdoors. Folks also quickly polished off the Peter Peter Pumpkin Bars. They have a delicious orange frosting.

We hollowed out a huge pumpkin to use as a punch bowl for the gathering.  Also on the table was a big glass jar filled with candy corn. We had to guess how many kernels it held to win a prize.

We have such a good time that I wanted to share the idea. Even if no one in your family has a pumpkin patch, you can plan a get-together with a trip to a pumpkin farm or farmers market and set up a potluck in your backyard.


More potluck chili recipes»