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Next generation of Carters taking over farm festival

Dwight Carter and his nephew, Steven Carter, are currently overseeing the beloved, annual pumpkin parties.

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Dwight Carter is the new manager of Carters' Farm Festival, with nephew Steven Carter. He specializes in growing heirloom tomatoes and hopes to host a tomato festival in the future.
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Carters’ Fall Festival is under new management, but brings the same pumpkin-licious traditions to the celebration, now in its 28th year.

“The way I see it, we’re bridging to the next generation,” said Dwight Carter. He is one of seven children of Russell and Maxine Carter, who founded the farm.

Dwight and his nephew, Steven Carter, are currently overseeing the beloved, annual pumpkin parties.

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Steven Carter portrayed King Arthur last weekend for a Camelot-themed wagon ride. He also designed this year's corn maze.

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They’re also brimming with ideas to expand “farm entertainment” throughout the growing season, such as a strawberry jamboree and a tomato fest.

Dwight would like to start a farm-to-table restaurant on the site.

Family tradition continues

The first Pumpkin Day was held in October 1994 at Carters’ Red Wagon Market.

The Carters steadily expanded festivities until Dwight’s brother, Tony, and sister-in-law, Linda, moved the festival to the farm at 14766 119th Avenue.

Over the years, Tony’s six-acre corn maze designs and wagon ride themes have ranged from Minnesota history and the Vikings to Robin Hood and Davy Crockett.

In summer 2021, Tony and Linda sold the market on State Hwy. 34. Health issues and a desire to slow down caused them to seek adventures off the farm.

Dwight asked his nieces and nephews for their vision and dreams for the Carter farm.

Steven had just completed his master’s degree in history. He stepped forward to manage the event.

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“None of my relatives were going to take up the festival, so I thought, man, we’ve got to keep this tradition going,” Steven said.

He said he’s committed to next year’s festival, too.

“We work together, but I take orders from him,” Dwight said.

Steven designed the corn maze, inspired by Arthurian legend.

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King Arthur battles the wicked Sir Mordred, portrayed by Steven's cousin, Samuel Carter.

Other activities include a Camelot-themed wagon ride, barrel train, tomato toss, corn pit, pumpkin propeller and much more.

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An English knight-scarecrow greets visitors at Carters' Fall Festival.

New to this year’s festival is the Corn Crib Stage, which hosts live music and magic shows.

Eventually, they’d like to add on to the popular corn pit. “We’ll make a couple more, using different colored corn, beans,” Dwight said.

“The biggest change is the next generation is starting to be active,” he said.

Tomatoes galore

Last spring, Dwight planted tomatoes on the farm “because that’s what I like to do.”

“It’s been an amazing year,” he said of the 30-some varieties burgeoning in the greenhouses. “They’re just so beautiful.”

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Dwight grows 30 kinds of tomatoes, like Dr. Wyche's, Japanese pink and Mountain Man.

Tony’s strawberry fields are looking great, too.

Dwight said his nieces and nephews are keen to sprout new festivals featuring other produce. With the infrastructure already in place, it makes good business sense to broaden farm entertainment.

“So we’re thinking strawberries. I’d like to have a tomato festival,” he said.

Clinton and Sarah Carter’s country folk band, called Carter Junction, performed earlier this month. They shared their signature blend of country and Celtic music.

Other family members may paint murals on the farm buildings.

The home is being renovated into a restaurant.

“I’d like to raise the food there,” Dwight said, pointing to the fields, “and I have some nieces that just love to cook.”

In the winter, he’ll return to Guatemala, where he has a tropical fruit nursery. He settled there after a Peace Corps stint in 1981. “I liked it. It was supposed to be two years. I did four years, put down roots,” he recalled. “I bought a farm. I’ve just been there ever since.”

The festival continues this weekend, Friday, Oct. 22 through Sunday, Oct. 24. It concludes Saturday, Oct. 30 and Sunday, Oct. 31.

“We just love to do this. It’s so much fun to see people have fun,” Dwight said.

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Celebrating a Vikings win in overtime on Sunday, the Paul and Denise Rocha family loaded up a wagon with pumpkins. Pictured, front, from left, are Harper, 3; Mason, 8 and Olivia, 5.

Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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