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Interactive installation Pumpkin Nights comes to Sonoma County

If You Go

What: Pumpkin Nights

When: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Oct. 11 through Nov. 3; closed Oct. 31

Where: Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa

General Admission: $20 for ages 13-59; $18 for 60 and older; $16 for ages 4-12, age 3 and under free; Fridays through Sundays and before 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Weekday Night Owl Specials: 17 for ages 13-59; $16 for 60 and older; $14 for ages 4-12, age 3 and under free; after 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays

Information: 707-545-4200, pumpkinnights.com/santa-rosa

Every October, Halloween enthusiasts troop out to assorted “haunted house” events, some of them graphically gory and scary enough to make “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” look like the teddy bears’ picnic. And that’s good fun for those who like it. A little fantasy fright can cleanse the soul, some say.

But there is another way to go, combining the spirit of harvest season with the lighter side of fantasy, according to the organizers of the traveling event Pumpkin Nights. The scheduled opening Thursday night was postponed because of PG&E planned power shutdowns. Weekend plans will be decided Friday. Once open, the show will run through Nov. 3, at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in Santa Rosa.

Pumpkin Nights features seven different “Pumpkin Lands,” created with more than 3,000 artistically hand-carved real or synthetic pumpkins, made of foam, plastic or wood.

The moods range from exciting to gentle. In the Enchanted Forest, for example, the inhabitants of gnome village guard over the spirit of the forest, and there’s a magic wishing well for visitors.

The stars of Pumpkin Lands are a 9-foot-tall pumpkin named Jack-O-Lynn and a 40-foot-long dragon made of pumpkins. And there’s a new land making its debut this year, the Forbidden Pumpkin City.

Pumpkin Nights was founded in 2016 at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to showcase local artists and celebrate the Halloween season without excessive emphasis on the macabre. Now, Pumpkin Nights runs through a good part of October simultaneously in five different cities across the nation. It opened Oct. 3 in Dallas/Fort Worth and Denver, and launched Thursday, Oct. 10, in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and - this year, for the first time - Santa Rosa.

“It has been gradual growth. Each passing year, we expand,” said Christian Munoz, who will serve as on-site manager during the Santa Rosa run.

Last year, he brought Pumpkin Nights to Auburn, near Sacramento.

It will take the company two weeks to set up this year at the Santa Rosa site, with Munoz arriving Sept. 23, to get the preparations started.

“There are a lot props, art and lighting, to give the event an appearance of movement and flow,” Munoz explained.

“We have a team of carvers at our Salt Lake City location who will be coming in. And we’ll be partnering with a local farm to supply all of the pumpkins.” (Negotiations were under way when he spoke by phone recently.)

In the age of selfies, patrons will find Pumpkin Nights a paradise for taking cell phone photos. Who wouldn’t want to pose with a gigantic dragon built out of pumpkins?

The traveling event is certainly a family-friendly attraction but it also serves well as a light-hearted date night, the promoters said.

“We see people of all backgrounds and demographics, from college students to older people,” Munoz said.

“We encourage people to take their time walking through the lands. It’s an immersive experience. You walk through and take in the different sights.Last year, I saw a lot of people by and I really enjoyed the experience,” he said. “Seeing the enchantment in their eyes was the main thing.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com.

If You Go

What: Pumpkin Nights

When: 5:30-10:30 p.m. Oct. 11 through Nov. 3; closed Oct. 31

Where: Sonoma County Fairgrounds, 1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa

General Admission: $20 for ages 13-59; $18 for 60 and older; $16 for ages 4-12, age 3 and under free; Fridays through Sundays and before 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Weekday Night Owl Specials: 17 for ages 13-59; $16 for 60 and older; $14 for ages 4-12, age 3 and under free; after 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays

Information: 707-545-4200, pumpkinnights.com/santa-rosa

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