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Hello Dear Readers! A quick note before we start the regular column today: Last night I attended the Disneyland annual passholder party and I thought it was very nice. Nothing truly spectacular took place but I really enjoyed myself. They had Main Street, Tomorrowland, and Fantasyland open and I have to say that because the party was not packed with people, it was a real luxury to be able to ride attractions I rarely go on and experience little to no wait.

Blue Ribbon Bakery, Gibson Girl Ice Cream Parlor, Main Street Refreshment Corner, Tomorrowland Terrace, and Redd Rockett's Pizza Port were open so folks could get food; and they offered complimentary embroidery if you purchased at hat at The Mad Hatter or Star Trader. They also provided a certificate entitling you to 5 photo downloads for $1.99 each. At first I wondered why an annual passholder would care about that, but after the parade ran, Disneyland brought the floats back out on Main Street and set up photo ops with the floats and the parade performers. Now that's a photo you couldn't get every day and certainly worth $1.99.

It was quite nice to get to see the floats close up and stationary, there's amazing detail on them that you miss under the normal parade-viewing experience — and the parade looks very pretty at night. And it was quite nice to watch the parade without having to line up and hour before to get a good view and to see it with people who clearly appreciate the wonderful parade that it is. The few photos you see here I took with my phone, they're not the best quality, but at least you will get an idea of what stuff looked like.

All in all it was a very low key, lovely evening that, in my mind, came across as nice little present given by Disneyland to the Annual Passholders.

We’re getting close to Halloween so today; Pressing Matters is all about pumpkins and ghosts. Oh, and there’s a bear thrown into the mix for good measure. Let’s get started with our subjects:

Skeleton Chase • From Cute & Sweet to Nasty & Mean • Free T For AP • Ghost Train
• Pumpkins • More Pumpkins • Even More Pumpkins • The Real Ghost Town

Last Saturday, during a brief stop at Disneyland to buy a Jack Skellington coffin popcorn bucket, as I dashed down Main Street, something caught my eye in the window of the Fortuosity Shoppe, some dandy artwork looking very Skeleton Dance-inspired. If you’ve never seen the 1929 short, The Skeleton Dance, do yourself a favor and hit "play" below for a sample. It’s a brilliant early Disney short with terrific music, involving skeletons that come out to play in a cemetery as the clock strikes midnight.

And the Skeleton Dance-inspired artwork just happens to be this month’s Watch of The Month at Disneyland:

It’s always the perfect “time” to find someone that special gift! Be sure to stop in and check out the newest releases from our Artisan Watch program. October’s watch, entitled Skeleton Chase, is drawn by Eric Scales and can be purchased at the Fortuosity Shoppe on Main Street during the month of October for $250.

For more information, visit this link.

Right near the popcorn cart that sells the coffin popcorn bucket is Disneyland’s most popular attraction this time of year. I’m talking about the Haunted Mansion. If you’ve ridden it since the Halloween gang invaded, you’ve no doubt seen that massive gingerbread house on the ballroom’s grand table. I’ve seen the house probably a dozen times since HalloweenTime commenced, but it’s hard to spot the details. For instance, there’s a hidden Mickey on the gingerbread house. Have you spotted it?

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland Park, but there was one celebration you might not have known about. Each year, some very different teams from across Disneyland Resort gather for a very special project: the Haunted Mansion Holiday gingerbread house. Cast members from teams like Operations, Engineering, Creative Development and Food and Beverage all work together to bring this spooky but tasty creation to life. In this video, we learn how they do it and what they do to mark their special reunion each year.

Now we’re going to briefly switch gears here and talk about an anniversary, or maybe I should say, an annibearsary. This Friday marks one year since Duffy the Disney Bear arrived in the American Disney parks. Okay, okay, I know there was a Disney bear before Duffy (I’m choosing to ignore that) and I know that Tokyo Disney Sea does a much better job with Duffy than the American parks do (an understatement if ever there was one) but I think Duffy deserves a little love on his special one year day.

If you visit Disney California Adventure on October 14th and you have an Annual Pass, stop by Treasures In Paradise, there might be a little something for you when you break out that pass:

For Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders in California, we will have a giveaway on October 14. The first 250 Passholders who present a valid Annual Passport at Treasures in Paradise in Disney California Adventure Park will receive a shirt, beginning at store opening. There is a limit of one per Passholder with valid Annual Passport and Passholders must be present in order to receive the shirt. All shirts available while supplies last.

For more information about the Duffy tee giveaway in DCA, visit this link.

There are free Duffy tees for Florida Annual Passholders too. And though the ending smacks too much of crass commercialism for me (Minnie starts churning out Disney bears by the truck load and the story turns into a you-need-a-Disney-bear-too commercial) — I much prefer Duffy’s Japanese story, which is sweet and all about Duffy spreading love and friendship, not the buy-this-bear message of the American story — there will also be a release of an American Duffy storybook October 14th on both coasts.

For more information about the Duffy storybook and the events in Florida, visit this link.

Okay, that bear is cute and all but let’s get back to more important things ... Halloween happenings. Here’s one that’s terrific and it’s right next to Walt Disney’s Barn in Griffith Park, The Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Annual Ghost Train.

The Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum has been presenting their “Ghost Train” for Halloween since 2001. Supported by train enthusiasts, the non-profit corporation runs their 7 1/2-inch gauge model trains free of charge every Sunday. For Halloween, the path is decorated with a series 30 elaborately spooky scenes. For 2011, the Live Steamers have added new displays, using digital projection for additional eerie effects.

Passengers must be at least 34" in height and weigh under 350 lbs. to ride. The Ghost Train runs on Oct 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, 31 from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM and though the train is technically free, there is a suggested donation of $8.00 per person. Remember the Live Steamers organization gives back to the community through Children's Hospital, The City of Hope, Make-A-Wish Foundation, Tri Valley Special Games and many other organizations so your $8.00 donation helps with that. The train is situated right next to Walt’s Barn and Travel Town in Griffith Park at 5202 Zoo Drive, Los Angeles, CA. For more information, visit this link.

Now ... you’re going to need a pumpkin soon, right? What better way to procure said pumpkin than to hit the pumpkin patches and select a super squash? One of the best pumpkin patches in Orange County and one my family is particularly fond of can be found in Irvine — it’s huge, it’s fun, and there are all kinds of activities:

Tanaka Farms U-Pick Pumpkin Patch is open from Oct. 1st to Oct. 31 to the public 7 days a week. Come join us for fun activities including: • Wagon Ride around our 30 acre farm • Wander around our corn maze • Pick your own vegetables • Visit our petting zoo (sheep, goats and alpacas) • Take pictures by "Tanaka's Pile of Pumpkins" • Finally pick your own pumpkin right off the vine • And on the weekends join us for our Fall Harvest Festival where we have food, games, rides and more!

There’s no admission charge or parking fee at Tanaka Farms, which is located at 5380 3/4 University Dr. in Irvine, CA. The farm is open on weekdays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and on weekends from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. For more information, visit this link.

Here’s another pumpkin patch in the Orange County area that is awfully fun too and there’s the added benefit that it's aiming to do something to help fight hunger:

Come to the Great Park Pumpkin Harvest to see where pumpkins come from, grown in a pumpkin patch! That’s just one of many reasons why kids and families are invited to celebrate the fall season at the fourth annual Great Park Pumpkin Harvest and food drive, Saturday, October 22 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to bring canned and non-perishable food items to the Great Park Pumpkin Harvest and food drive to help Second Harvest Food Bank and Community Action Partnership prepare for their busy Thanksgiving season helping families in need.

Kids are encouraged to come dressed in their favorite costume, take a harvest walk in the new Palm Court, fly in the Great Park Balloon and take a ride on the Great Park Carousel. Children 12 and under will receive a free pumpkin, while supplies last. Admission to the Great Park Pumpkin Harvest is free but parking is $10.00. The Orange County Great Park is located at Sand Canyon and Marine Way, and can easily be reached by the 5 or 405 freeways. For more information, visit this link.

One more pumpkin festival to talk about — this one was brought to my attention by one of my favorite candy makers, Pauline’s Handmade Brittle.

Before I talk about the pumpkins, I have to segue into a little commercial here for Pauline’s. I discovered her shop one day when I was visiting the Disney Studios in Burbank. The shop is near the studio and though I’m not much of a brittle fan, I was intrigued and investigated. One bite of this delicious candy and I became a brittle fan, it’s super yummy. Now, I’m mentioning Pauline’s because A), It’s a good thing, and B), Pauline’s will be at this next pumpkin festival and you can sample her brittle and then buy some if you like it:

On October 15th & 16th come on out to the 2011 Calabasas Pumpkin Festival where there will be fun for the whole family and of course, pumpkins and all kinds of yummy pumpkin treats. Admission to the festival includes inflatable rides & giant slide, live bands, reptile & nature shows, youth carnival games, a business district & fun zone, and on Sunday, a car show.

The Calabasas Pumpkin Festival takes place from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM Saturday and Sunday, October 14th & 15th at Juan Bautista de Anza Park. Admission is $5.00 and there is free parking and shuttles and is located at Juan Bautista de Anza Park. Parking & entrance begins at the corner of Lost Hills Road and Agoura Road (NOTE: There is no parking along Las Virgenes - Malibu Canyon Rd). For more information, visit this link.

If I’ve piqued your interest in Pauline’s Handmade Brittle but you can’t make it out to the pumpkin festival, visit her web site for more information.

And that brings us to our last Pressing Matter for today, a ghost town, a real ghost town. Sure you’ve got your haunts and scares but this time of year, what could be better than visiting a real ghost town and we’ve got one right here in Southern California — Calico Ghost Town:

Calico is an old West mining town that has been around since 1881 during the largest silver strike in California. Walter Knott, of Knott’s Berry Farm fame, purchased Calico in the 1950's, architecturally restoring all but the five original buildings to look as they did in the 1880's. Calico received State Historical Landmark 782 and in 2005 was proclaimed by then Governor Schwarzenegger to be California's Silver Rush Ghost Town. Today, Calico is part of the San Bernardino County Regional Parks system.

There’s a lot of Halloween events going on at Calico this month. On Thursday October 20th, starting at 8:00 PM, Calico will be hosting a concert by the band 100 Monkeys, featuring Jackson Rathbone (Jasper in the film Twilight). Then the real fun begins with a haunt commencing Friday October 21st and running through Sunday October 23rd and again the following weekend on Friday October 28th through Sunday October 30th. It pits Vampire against Gypsy with gypsy and vampire encampments designed by John Cluff, the film special effects wizard who has worked on such films as Batman Begins, V for Vendetta, and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.

The haunt features a game where players get to participate in a scavenger hunt all the while interacting with the cast members to help one of the clans win the town for the night. The winning clan will host the 'Monster Mash' featuring a great DJ and dancing under the stars with the cast of Vampires vs. Gypsies and other 'haunts.'

Sounds like good Halloween-ish fun, doesn’t it?

Calico Ghost Town is located at 36600 Ghost Town Road in Yermo, CA — take the I-15 to the Ghost Town Road Exit. Calico Ghost town is open daily from 9 AM to 5 PM, except Christmas Day. For more information, including admission fees & times (click on Calico Events for the full scoop on the Haunt), visit this link.

I’ve got some pumpkin carving to think about so that’ll wrap it up for today. If you want to know what I’m up to, you need to follow Pressing Matters on Twitter. You never know what you’ll find there — food, museums, shopping, Disneyland, Halloween! Follow along as I search for the all the latest Pressing Matters & tweet about what I find:

I'll say goodbye, until we meet again to discuss more...

If you'd like to submit something to be considered for the column, please send it to both Sue and Al at the following email addresses: [email protected] and [email protected] with the words "Pressing Matters" in the subject line. Due to our already extensive email loads we won't be able to acknowledge each submission, but those under consideration may get a note from us asking for more details. Representatives from the items chosen are invited to answer questions from readers at the forum linked at the end of each column.

FTC-Mandated Disclosure: As of December 2009, bloggers are required by the Federal Trade Commission to disclose payments and freebies. Sue Kruse and Al Lutz did not receive any payments, free items, or free services from any of the parties discussed in this article. They pay for their own admission to theme parks and their associated events, unless otherwise explicitly noted.

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2011 Sue Kruse