The smell of sweet corn on the cob, the sight of scarecrows in a sunflower field, the worry of being lost in a corn maze, and the fun of climbing on a large fiberglass jack-o’-lantern — these are just some of the everlasting memories that Santa Clarita residents have of Lombardi Ranch.
“This pumpkin,” said SCV resident Samir Saba as he watched his 3-year-old daughter, Jade, climb on the fiberglass jack-o’-lantern, he vividly remembered. “(I remember) climbing in it just like they are. Climbing all over it and falling down.”
The iconic pumpkin is a symbol of tradition, with a carved-out eyes, nose and a smile, and this past weekend people of all ages climbed in and out, recreating pictures from up to 52 years ago.
Lombardi Ranch, a family-owned business run by Bob and Joann Lombardi, was established in 1966.
In 2007, the ranch was partially burned by the Buckweed Fire. Instead of closing down the community tradition, the Lombardi family rose from the ashes, rebuilt and opened again in 2008.
After 49 years of business, in 2015 the ranch closed due to California’s drought, leaving many residents without their favorite Halloween tradition.
“Opening day kicked the season for us, so we were very sad when they closed,” said Charity Hester.
Her family of five rushed to the ranch after they found out about the Lombardi’s opening it for pumpkins and pictures only on Saturday, she said.
Their first family trip to the ranch was in 2005 when their oldest Addie Hester, 13, was only 18 months old.
“She kept signing ‘banana’ and pointing to the pumpkin. We called it the banana patch, so I just told her that story again,” Hester said laughing. “There are a lot of memories here, a lot of memories.”
Hester reminisced and recreated photos with her son Teddy, 6, and two daughters, Addie, 13, and Lily, 18 months.
“We have a photo of them in front of the pumpkin every year,” she said. “And in front of the one that measures their height.”
“I’m (this many) pumpkins tall,” several residents said when checking their height.
Whether it was six pumpkins or barely even one, the simple attraction made many residents smile.
“Money can’t buy that type of smile,” said resident Daisy Arreola, as she watched her three children play in the sea of pumpkins.
Arreola’s parents brought her to the patch when she was a child, and like many others she wanted to carry on the tradition, she said.
Her children, Daenerys Wyche, 8 months, Bradford Wyche, 6, and Remington Wyche, 2, love to climb on the trucks and touch the pumpkins, she said. “This is where we bought his first pumpkin,” Arreola said about her oldest son, Bradford. “It was a tradition for us, and it still is.”
A tradition or a memory, or maybe even a bragging right.
Residents Robert Fischer and Sarah Moreno remember taking their first field trip at Lombardi Ranch.
“That was like the big thing as kids, coming back from the field trip with your little white bag and a pumpkin,” said Robert Fischer, smiling as he reminisced.
“Especially if you had siblings and you were the only one who got to go in your family,” said Sarah Moreno.
During its operation the ranch held field trips during the week for day-cares, elementary schools and other groups. They also offered a space for birthday parties during the last few years of business.
“I brought her here for her birthday, and brought her back every year,” Moreno said about her daughter Mia Blanco. “That was her favorite birthday party. She asks for it every year.”
Mia said she liked the pony rides the best and just loved getting to do all the kid things.
Fisher and Moreno and their three children Carter, Abigail and Mia smiled for a photo Saturday in another iconic photo spot at Lombardi Ranch, the jail cell. With a hand on each bar, they acted as if they were trying to break out of jail.
In 2015 before the ranch closed, whether you were in the jail cell, on the train, lost in a corn maze or petting goats in the petting zoo, you could hear the music of David Reeves Carpenter and his band.
On a cement stage, the band sang covers and originals, specifically the song written just about Lombardi Ranch.
“You ain’t never seen seen nothing like this pumpkin patch,” the band would sing.
And residents agreed. “Around Halloween time, this is the place you would want to go to, that is local and family-oriented,” Fisher said. “This is the only place like it.”
A tradition for residents is a hobby for Bob Lombardi. “I can’t farm very much, but I can a little. If I have the pumpkins to sell, I might as well sell them,” he said.
The ranch is scheduled to open again Saturday and Sunday for pumpkin sales and pictures only.
“It’s a tiny bit of fall,” said SCV resident Kristen DeBenedetto.
DeBenedetto grew up on the East Coast and in the Midwest, apple picking and going to pumpkin patches, she said. “There isn’t as much out here. This is one of the only places out there that had all that same fall stuff.”
She described the day as bittersweet as her 7-year-old son, Jack, played on the red fire truck.
“I hope it sticks in his memory of his childhood going to the pumpkin patch,” she said.
As many residents, her family was upset to see the ranch close, but they are happy to see it open even if it’s just for pumpkins and pictures.
“We take what we can get,” Debenedetto said.
The Lombardi family hopes to put smiles on the faces of people who have supported the ranch for years.
“My favorite part is seeing the people come in,” Lombardi said. “It’s kind of an up for me to do this — bring back the piece of the ranch again.”