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Arts and Entertainment

Photos: Explore A Corn Maze With Hello Kitty And Chococat

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The presence of Hello Kitty, our overlord of cuteness, has been spreading throughout Southern California beyond your average Sanrio mall shop. Not only does this famous cat have her own cafes full of Hello Kitty macarons and cookies, but she and her Sanrio buddies are now making appearances at Tanaka Farms in Irvine for its annual pumpkin patch.

Tanaka Farms and Sanrio have partnered up to hold events at the 30-acre farm all year long, and the kick-off celebration is its pumpkin patch, which runs from Sept. 29-Oct. 31. We visited the farm, which is decked out with backdrops, scarecrows and pumpkins bearing the kawaii faces of Hello Kitty, Keroppi, Pochocco and Chococat.

There will be wagon rides that take groups on a tour of the farm, and at one of its stops, you can watch a pumpkin get launched out of a cannon, because…why not? In addition, you can find a small corn maze; a petting zoo with goats, sheep and an alpaca; and an opportunity to pick out your own fresh pumpkins and vegetables. On the weekends, there is the added bonus of food like chicken fingers and a corn-and-potato bar; and games such as ATV rides, duck-racing, and Sanrio arts-and-crafts that involve sand art, bird houses and pumpkin-painting. There's also a shop, which, along with vegetables from the farm and baked bread, will have Sanrio merchandise and collectibles that were made specifically for Tanaka Farms.

In its kickoff weekend, Hello Kitty and Keroppi will be making an appearance at Tanaka Farms on Sept. 30 from 12 p.m.-4 p.m., and while wagon rides typically cost $6, they will be free with a $3 admission to the pumpkin patch.

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If you can't make it that weekend, you'll have another opportunity to meet with Hello Kitty at the farm's Oct. 28 Halloween celebration, which will include a Sanrio costume contest.

Kenny Tanaka, the manager at the farm, says a family friend who works for Sanrio was the catalyst behind bridging the two groups together a while back, but it wasn't until earlier this year that they began discussing the possibilities.

He says he hopes this partnership will bring "more awareness of the farm," which is a small-family business that has been running since 1998. "We're trying to get more people out here."

Down the pipeline, the Tanaka family is planning more monthly events with Sanrio, including gardening classes to educate people on farming; dinners; and a cookout where guests get to pick their own vegetables and get to cook and eat them on the farm. There will also be themed festivals, like ones involving Christmas trees, strawberries, watermelon and sunflowers — and you'll most likely see Hello Kitty's bow-topped noggin peeking out at these events.

Tanaka Farms is located at 5380 3/4 University Dr., Irvine. (949) 653-2100. The Pumpkin Patch runs daily from Sept. 29-Oct. 31, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Entry admission is $3; 2 years and under is free. Extra activities like the wagon ride, petting zoo, games and food each require separate tickets. If you purchase an entry package for $10, that includes entry to the pumpkin patch, wagon ride and petting zoo.