Rick Martell, the youngest of the three siblings who own The Garden Factory, was looking for something to boost the Rochester, New York, garden center’s Fall Family Fun days beyond the typical offerings. Carnival rides and pumpkin decorating were fun, but he wanted to kick it up a notch. “We decided last year, let’s go completely off path and try something new,” Martell says. “I’m going to build a dinosaur park and a little kids’ construction area.”

The additions have been a huge success. Foot traffic tripled. In the first three weekends of the event, 14,000 people visited the Prehistoric Park and the excavators (which are equipped with ride counters) had more than 5,000 turns.

General admission to Fall Family Fun is free, but activities require tickets, which are $1 each. The Prehistoric Park is six tickets (2 years and under are free), and the mini excavators are four tickets for three minutes. There are carnival rides as well like a bounce house, merry-go-round and train.

The event was held in the 77,000 square-foot retail area where annuals are sold during spring and summer and ran weekends from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sept. 28 through Oct. 27.

After the Fall Family Fun activities close down for the day, the store stayed open another hour for visitors to buy pumpkins, mums and other fall products.
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE GARDEN FACTORY
The animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex can make nine different movements.
The baby dinosaur hand puppet was one of the most popular attractions.
The brand-new Prehistoric Park included 15 animatronic dinosaurs.
The Little Digger Construction Site contained four customized excavators and sandboxes staffed by seven part-time high school students hired just for the event. The Garden Factory’s first Facebook post about the Little Diggers was a short video that provided a huge marketing boost. The post reached 125,000 people with 70,000 views and 1,000 comments. At its longest, there was a 90-minute wait for the mini excavators. Martell says he’s going to add four more next year, to bring the total to eight.