Dallas Arboretum’s popular fall festival, Autumn at the Arboretum, presented by Reliant, is September 19-November 1 this year. The nationally acclaimed Pumpkin Village is the highlight of the festival. It features four 20-foot-tall decorated pumpkin houses and creative displays fashioned from more than 90,000 pumpkins, gourds and squash. “The Art of the Pumpkin” is the theme of this year’s festival, which also includes 150,000 autumn flowers. The floral displays are accented by pumpkins, gourds and squash from Floydada, Texas.
Two dedicated Dallas Arboretum volunteers, Rod Franz and Dennis Wright, are co-chairing Autumn at the Arboretum this year. Both retired, the volunteers have served in a number of capacities for Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. They especially enjoy greeting visitors.
Rachel Crawford, Dallas Arboretum volunteer manager, said, “We selected Rod and Dennis because they are both great at working with crowds and helping out in all situations. They are very familiar with our procedures and are very dedicated and willing to volunteer for multiple shifts in a week.”
Rod Franz is a retired J.C. Penney buyer who lives in Sachse. Franz says he found out about the Dallas Arboretum while discussing gardening with some friends. He has now racked up nearly 5,800 hours volunteering anywhere he’s needed at the Arboretum.
“They told me to look at the Dallas Arboretum, and I began volunteering in 2011,” Franz said. “Since I retired about a decade ago, I started gardening. I like what the Dallas Arboretum Horticulture team does on a large scale, so I try doing it at a smaller scale at my house. I like getting to know a lot of different people, so I volunteer at the Membership Table, Gift Shop, Special Events, Tour Guide, and Information Booth. The thing that keeps me coming back are the people I meet from around the world, along with the staff and volunteers.”
Franz said he looks forward to seeing the many parents, grandparents and caregivers at Mommy and Me Mondays and Tiny Tot Tuesdays, presented by Kimberly-Clark. “The Dallas Arboretum has added many extra safety measures to keep our visitors, even our youngest ones, safe. An example is that our face painters are providing washable arm tattoos in place of face painting, so that everyone can social distance and be safe.”
Dennis Wright is a retired assistant superintendent from Wichita, Kansas. Wright discovered the Dallas Arboretum at a Cool Thursdays Concert with his daughter. He loved the atmosphere, especially the live music outdoors. Wright moved to the Lakewood area to be close to his four children and eleven grandchildren.
During Autumn at the Arboretum, Wright said he looks forward to the live bands playing at 2 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday. Since he started volunteering in 2008, Wright has clocked almost 10,000 volunteer hours at Dallas Arboretum. He serves as an Emeritus member on the Volunteer Advisory Board. Before COVID-19, he was the Tram Trainer and Tram Driver. He now helps wherever he is needed, particularly in the Information Booth or as a Garden Ambassador.
Wright said, “It’s amazing the number of different kinds of activities that go on here. No matter what your interests are, along with flowers and trees, there are many other things to do. In fact, I have coffee with a group of doctors who are all cooks, so I’ve told them about A Tasteful Place (a garden dedicated to growing vegetables, herbs and fruit) where we have professional chefs who demonstrate cooking. There’s something for everyone at the Dallas Arboretum.”
Autumn at the Arboretum Sponsors
In addition to presenting sponsor Reliant, other sponsors for Autumn at the Arboretum include Kimberly-Clark, CC Young Senior Living, Park Place Dealerships, Bank of Texas, Texas Instruments, Doyle and Associates, and Gil’s Elegant Catering.
For updated information or special discounts, please visit dallasarboretum.org.