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Photos by JJ Kaplan

Take a drive north up Michigan Road from Zionsville, and you can’t help but notice a sea of orange pumpkins and several signs welcoming you to Pumpkinfest at The Country Market. Once there, you are surrounded by pumpkins of various colors, Indian corn, corn stalks, gourds, mums and all the delightful sights and aromas of the fall harvest. While The Country Market operates all year under the close-knit Bankert family, Pumpkinfest is the seasonal business of Lori and John Bankert.

Both Lori and John came from a farming background and large families in which hard work and working together were required. Their strong work ethic continues today as they create a unique experience at The Country Market during the month of October. This month, thousands will come to experience fall in the country. Pumpkinfest is a celebration of the harvest of Indiana…something that many people these days don’t have the opportunity to experience due to the declining number of family farms.

Pumpkinfest began as their own family business in 1999. Lori and John agreed that she should be available to spend time at home to raise their youngest child, Kaitlyn. Lori still wanted to work and also the freedom to be with Kaitlyn at her discretion. Of all the seasons, fall was their favorite and the one they decided to focus upon and to pour their energy into. Initially, she and John had a wagon at The Country Market that operated on the honor system. Tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks and more were available to purchase…folks just put their money in the coffee can on the hay wagon.

What began as a vegetable stand by the side of the road has exploded into a thriving business known as Pumpkinfest. Soon they added farm animals including goats, sheep, calves, pigs, chickens, ponies and donkeys. Eventually the Bankerts added pony rides and a corn maze along with a bee observatory, moo-choo train and a 100 foot slide down the hill!

Giant 100 pound pumpkins are available to purchase. These massive pumpkins sell quickly and can be the source of a great evening of carving and decorating at home. Many aspiring photographers have carved out the pumpkins and then photographed babies and children inside. For anyone that calls their child their little “punkin,” this is the ultimate photography background!

John recalls one of his favorite memories: a little girl hugging a small pumpkin and rocking side to side after she finished her hayride to the pumpkin patch. She told him, “This is the best day of my life!” Notes of appreciation fill their notebook of keepsake memories. Lori believes that she is blessed to come from a farming background and wants to share it with others. Her energy, optimism and zest for living are highly contagious!

The Bankert’s greatest joy is to provide a place for people, young and old alike, to come and enjoy the bounty of our Indiana crops. Every weekend in October, families can come to The Country Market to experience great food, bluegrass bands, crops, animals and the joy of being in the country. They also offer field trips for children from preschool through second grade as well as corporate events during the evening.

If you are looking for a reason to get out and enjoy this glorious season, plan to attend Pumpkinfest at The Country Market, 795 S. US Hwy. 421 in Zionsville. Located just five miles north of Zionsville on SR 421 (Michigan Road) or ½ mile south of SR 32 on SR 421 (Michigan Road). Visit www.thepumpkinfest.com for full weekly schedule and details.

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