Farmer Copleys: Owner of Yorkshire farm praises 'Glastonbury-size' crowd of 120,000 who flocked to pick pumpkins and observed a sheep show

Yorkshire farm Farmer Copleys hosted its annual pumpkin festival and has attracted a ‘Glastonbury-size’ crowd of 120,000.

The Pumpkin Festival at Farmer Copleys this year ran from Saturday, September 23 to Sunday, October 29.

The Copley family has been farming for more than 140 years, beginning with grandma Rachel in North Featherstone with just one pig and a cow. In 1967 Earnest Copley bought Ravensknowle Farm and they moved into the cottage.

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Farmer Copleys farm shop opened for the first time in December 2003 and Robert Copley owns the Pontefract-based farm alongside his wife, Heather.

Families picking pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)Families picking pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)
Families picking pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)

For its 20th year, the Pumpkin Festival has drawn in a large crowd, despite the extreme weather.

Mr Copley has praised the show this year.

“We’ve had the biggest days,” he said.

“I think we got to about 120,000 [visitors], but we have battled with the weather this year; we’ve had the two storms, Storm Babet and Storm Ciaran. In 17 years it’s been the wettest year.

Couple dressed up as pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)Couple dressed up as pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)
Couple dressed up as pumpkins. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)

“It created challenges and mud; it’s Glastonbury for kids. People seemed to be enjoying themselves, obviously I would prefer it to be on grass and with sunshine.

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“It was absolutely buzzing; there’s nothing nicer than a good pumpkin day. The beauty of it is that it’s families together.

“If you go into a soft play, for instance, the parents sit and have a drink while the kids are running riot, that’s not really family interaction.

“Whereas when you look at pumpkins, they stay as a family unit, they talk as a family unit, they get a wheelbarrow and the kids are pushing the wheelbarrow.

Pumpkin Festival. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)Pumpkin Festival. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)
Pumpkin Festival. (Pic credit: Farmer Copleys)

“They’re choosing the pumpkin as a family. We do lots of family activities, we’ve got paintball and archery.”

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This year, there were two additions to the festival: a sheep show and dodgems.

The event, which raised up to £30,000 for charity, also included local bands and tribute acts performing.

“I think it’s a good community event; we always donate to charity,” Mr Copley said.

“We give quite well to the local Pontefract School, we do have charity stalls at the event. We supported the [Yorkshire] Air Ambulance this year.

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“We give up to £30,000 a year in monetary value but often it’s in vouchers and afternoon teas.

“We had Octoberfest, a Luke Combs tribute and we had some local bands playing; it’s a full-blown festival with a fairground.

“We had the sheep show, that was this year’s big addition. It comes with a 40ft trailer and it’s very educational and very precise.

“[There were] 10 breeds of sheep and basically Britain’s built on wool, Bradford is certainly built on wool. This was the first commercial sheep in the UK and it got overtaken by the textile.

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“He has the famous dancing sheep; at the end they all dance to Footloose.”

Upcoming festive events at the farm include a crafts fair, Santa Paws and Santa’s Grotto.

Mr Copley expects around 6,000 visitors a week for the grotto.

“Coming out of pumpkins, we then go into Christmas mode,” he said.

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“The first two weekends, we have Crafts at Christmas, high-quality craft stalls in a marquee, I think there’s about 40 trailers in there.

“We also have a big farmhouse AirBnB that we decorate as a Christmas house, so you can go in there to buy all your baubles and ornaments. It’s all Christmas display stuff.

“Then when the craft show finishes, we go into Santa Paws, so we’ve got a big dog stall. We’ve teamed up with a dog supplier The Dog House and they are going to be selling gifts for dogs.

“Then we also do a very simple, a very traditional, meet Santa in his grotto [event] so we had some lovely wooden hobbit houses on the farm, so we decorate one of them up like Santa’s workshop. It’s just one family or one kid at a time. They get quite a long time, they get six minutes with Santa.

“We’ll probably get around 6,000 a week for that event.”

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