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By Meghan McNeice
Propped up upon his fathers’ shoulders with a miniature pumpkin in hand, a young boy shouts excitedly to his father about the farm animals kept in the outside stalls of the barn at the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival. The farm animals are one of the many features the festival spotlights.
This year marks the 20th year anniversary of the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival in Christiansburg. The festival started the last weekend in September. and runs through the last weekend of October. The farm has about 30,000 to 35,000 people attend over the course of the five-week span and help is essential.
Sinkland Farms is packed with activities and vendors that all ages can enjoy throughout the day. Trail riding, ‘Punkin Chunkin,’ hayrides, corn mazes and more can all be found on the 125-acre farm. Bands from the local area provide live music and often times cloggers will come and put on performances.
Reliance on family is key at Sinkland Farms. Farm owners, S. Henry and Susan Sink have three children who help each year prepare and run the festival, Lisa 30, Curtis 28, and Leslie 21.
Henrys’ legacy continues and most children recognize him as the “pumpkin man”. He was the festivals ultimate host of the Sinkland Pumpkin Festival and was glad to share the farm with the rest of the community.
In 2007, the family suffered the loss of a father and husband when Henry passed away.
“It’s been five years and it seems like yesterday he was here. Words can’t describe the loss,” said Susan.
In 1980 the farm was bought by Henry and Susan, soon establishing Sinkland Farms. Henry once operated a 120 cow Holstein dairy herd while also growing and selling vegetables, sweet corn, and a variety of different berries. Starting as just a wholesale item, pumpkins soon became the hit crop and thus the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival began.
The Sink’s plan on keeping this a family owned operation. But to assist the Sinks during the Pumpkin Festival, family friends, and variety of Radford University and Virginia Tech students come to help work the different attractions of the festival.
Susan focuses on hiring, training, arranging for tractors, decorating and advertising for the Pumpkin Festival.
Boys and their toys, Curtis works with all of the mechanical aspects of the festival including control of tractors and equipment as well as overseeing the other attractions of the festival. Together, him and Susan have split some of the operations for a smoother process.
Leslie returns home each weekend from the University of North Carolina to run the Kettle Korn stand
The only member that won’t be returning for this Pumpkin Festival is Lisa. She is currently in Australia until the holiday season but during the 2011 season she managed the food concessions.
Each year there are a handful of new employees that get hired as well as several that leave for college or moving.
Senior Suzanne Lauth is assisting Susan this year for internship credit and has been a loyal worker of Sinkland Farms returning for her second year, “Susan and her family make you feel like you are part of the family. You really feel like your work is appreciated,” said Lauth.
This year family friend Jason Politis, has taken over as the on-site concession manager in place of Lisa. This is the only major significant change the farm has experienced thus far during the Pumpkin Festival.
“We have an efficient staff this year and that’s going to help big time when peak weekends hit and the concession line snakes down and around,” said senior Margaret McLain. McLain is interning for Susan helping her with advertising and other public relation aspects. This is her second year working for Sinkland Farms and on weekends she works in the food concession either preparing food or serving and collecting money.
Both Lauth and McLain work outside of the Pumpkin Festival and help Susan plan and organize outside events some pertaining to Sinkland Farms weddings.
The 125-acre property can be arranged beautifully for weddings and receptions. Held nearby the lake with a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the ceremony scenery is incredible. The barn pavilion is large enough to hold large wedding receptions accompanied with a large stage for bands.
For those who can’t attend the Pumpkin Festival on weekends, fieldtrips and large groups are welcome to attend for an educational experience on the farming aspect. This year they have three new learning experiences including: The Pumpkin Life Cycle Story, From Farm to Fork, and BEE Learning.
“We are known as, ‘a family tradition’ in the community and have features and attractions that any age can enjoy. I hope that families leave with a better appreciation and understanding of farming and harvest- NO FARMS NO FOOD,” said Susan.
This year all of the Pumpkin Festivals major contributors are sponsored by local area businesses. The Sinks hope that what they’re providing is educational and also entertaining for guests who attend the Sinkland Farms Pumpkin Festival.