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S&S Vineyards to host Uncle Ray's Pumpkin Day this Saturday

Pumpkins of all shapes and sizes are ripe for picking as children and their parents are invited to the 8th Annual Uncle Ray's Pumpkin Day this Saturday (Sept. 26) at S&S Vineyards, located 2 1/2 miles north of New York Mills on Highway 67.

In what has developed over the years into a fun fall event and family tradition, the annual Uncle Ray's Pumpkin Day takes place this Saturday (Sept. 26), 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at S&S Vineyards just north of New York Mills.

Hot dogs, chips, refreshments and treats will be provided.

The late Ray Sonnenberg started the event eight years ago to give children in the community the opportunity to pick the perfect pumpkin from the large pumpkin patch planted at the vineyard. Sonnenberg's nephew, Brian Sillanpaa, and Carla Snyder kept the pumpkin-picking party going after Uncle Ray passed away a few years ago.

"I guess the event has become a family tradition and a way to keep Ray's memory alive," Sillanpaa said. "He was a unique person given his ability to befriend people (even total strangers), had a great sense of humor, treated everyone with respect, and was just plain fun to be around."

In hosting the event each year, Uncle Ray used to kick back in his chair with his unique smile stretching across his face as he watched the children scurry through the pumpkin patch. He used to comment that one of his favorite parts of the event was watching the little kids try and carry the over-sized pumpkins.

Sillanpaa, Snyder, and other local volunteers keep the event going each fall.

"We enjoy seeing the kids having fun and we also get to talk with many of our neighbors who we don't see all that often," Sillanpaa said. "This year, with the economy being what it is, we thought it would be good to keep the tradition alive as well. Also, seems every year we make a few new friends which is great."

In eight years the event has grown from Uncle Ray's idea to give some kids a few pumpkins to the popular community event it is today.

Sillanpaa and his crew recently restored the barn at S&S Vineyards and, following the pumpkin picking activities, will host the second annual Pumpkin Day Jam Session. This is an informal musical jam featuring The Hillside Creeps and a collection of locals stopping by to play a few songs.

Sillanpaa and Jon Frost will also provide tours of the winery to those interested on Saturday.

Uncle Ray's Pumpkin Day is sponsored by Tender Hearts Home Care and family members of S&S Vineyards.