Hunsader's 'Western Town' harkens to days of TV's 'Gunsmoke'

EAST MANATEE -- Erica Workman of Sarasota, a typical 19-year-old. agreed to a totally unscientific experiment in pop culture at Western Town on Sunday at the 23rd annual Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival in East Manatee.

Workman, who was with her family, was asked to say the first words that came to her mind when hearing the following phrases: "Gunsmoke," "Wagon Trail," "Have Gun Will Travel," "Bonanza" and "The Lone Ranger."

In order, her replies: "Bullets?" "Hay?" "I have no idea," "Cowabunga?" and, "Oh yeah! I know that one! 'The Lone Ranger' is a movie starring Johnny Depp."

Well, it isn't unexpected a younger generation isn't clued into the old TV westerns of the 1950s and 1960s, but Erica's grandmother, Paulette Jewell, said she remembers them well and the memory of her husband, Jerry, watching Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke" came racing back to her as she visited Hunsader Farms' new Western Town.

"It's very nostalgic sitting here and reminds me of Jerry watching TV," said Jewell who sat in Western Town while her daughter, Cindi Bass of Sarasota and Bass' children, Samantha Bass, 9, Stone Bass, 7, and Erica went through the Corn Maze along with family friend, Iris Rodriguez, 10.

Jerry Jewell was probably watching TV at home, his wife said.

"Too much walking," said Jewell, who, in the light of Western Town, looked just like the actress, Amanda Blake, who played Miss Kitty in "Gunsmoke,"

Built over the course of September, Western Town attracted hundreds of visitors Sunday.

Jewell was enthusiastic when told the Hunsaders, primarily son-in-law Jon Brussee and David Hunsader, may add another pine building across the path in the coming years and could have shootouts in the middle of the street as they did on "Gunsmoke."

"That would be exciting," Jewell said.

Western Town was the brainchild of David Hunsader, who is Mike Hunsader's brother.

Brussee, who is married to Mike and Trish Hunsader's daughter, Alyssa, and Jared Hunsader, Mike and Trish Hunsader's son, helped David Hunsader build Western Town.

"I've always liked wagons," David Hunsader said, explaining his preference for old Americana. "We managed to find some extra time and we just did it this year."

So far, Western Town is comprised of two buildings:

A 60-foot long, 20-foot deep structure housing the bank, wagon shop and jail.

Close by is a prop saloon, where an artistry-in-wood chainsaw presentation and the "Farmly Feud" game pit families against each other.

Hunsader guests now buy their tickets for the Corn Maze at the jail in Western Town and they can also go inside the jail and a wagon shop. No drinks at the saloon though.

"People have been enjoying taking pictures in the jail," Brussee said. "The wagon shop has an old wagon inside."

David Hunsader smiled when asked about the possibility of a staged gun battle in the street in the future, something children of all ages might like, especially baby boomers who grew up watching westerns such as "The Rifleman," "Bonanza" and "Gunsmoke."

"We'll have to see about that," he said. "But we have talked about more buildings across from this one, including we hope, a church."

The structures are built with pressure-treated wood framed in rough-cut pine, all local and cut by a friend of the Hunsaders.

"All the pine we used for Western Town comes from local subdivisions that required cutting trees," Brussee said. "No trees had to be cut especially for it."

The public seemed to take to Western Town, said Jennifer Davis, 36, who was selling tickets at the bank for the Corn Maze.

"They like the new entrance," Davis said.

The Corn Maze was a hit with Jewell's family -- and a challenge.

"It was very hard to find our way out," Stone Bass said.

"The corn was even taller than the adults," Cindi Bass said.

The Pumpkin Festival will continue the following two weekends in October from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is $10 for ages 13 and up, free for ages 12 and under. Live entertainment is included in the price of admission.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.