‘It's fun to play dress-up, but now we're sweaty’: Getting that cute fall pic in hot weather
- Social media users are turning to pumpkin patches to find a backdrop for their next Instagram post.
- Some businesses are shifting their business strategy to create more picture-perfect spots.
- Social media experts say fall photos can have a chain reaction on social media.
It may have been sunny and nearly 75 degrees, but Las Vegas-resident Domenic Marcolongo decided to go all-in celebrating fall this past weekend.
That meant a cozy sweatshirt, pumpkin spice coffee from Starbucks and a trip to the Las Vegas' Gilcrease Orchard with his husband Jordan, their 1-year-old daughter Zara and friend Rebecca Valdivieso.
"It's fun to play dress-up, but now we're sweaty," Marcolongo said at the pumpkin patch. "We wanted to get festive but we forgot where we live."
Wheeling around a cart full of pumpkins – eight green ones because as Valdivieso says, "teal is the new black" – as well as a stroller carrying Zara and seven half-gallon jugs of apple cider didn't help.
But the three had a purpose that day: leave with a camera roll full of festive fall photos.
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"It's pics or it didn't happen," Marcolongo said, adding that they would likely end up on Instagram. "I didn't have a lot of photos growing up. I would've loved to have seen myself doing more things."
Valdivieso added that capturing the memories the Marcolongo family is building with Zara adds to the experience.
"Watching them be new parents and building these memories and traditions ... this is more special," she said. "Pictures are important."
With the rise of social media, pumpkin patches have become more than just a fun fall outing no matter the weather. They're the perfect spot for people looking for a festive backdrop for their next Facebook or Instagram post.
'It really is for the memories'
Mark Ruben, director of Gilcrease, said he welcomes selfies at the orchard.
“We don’t make money on the Instagram stuff, but it’s free advertising,” he said.
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The orchard dedicated more acreage to sunflowers this year knowing people would use the fields as a backdrop to their next profile picture or TikTok video. (One TikTok video, published last month, has more than 24,500 likes on the video-sharing app as of Friday.)
The pumpkin patch is another area the orchard tries to make picture-perfect. While the desert soil can grow specialty pumpkin varieties like Blue Delight or Rascal pumpkins, most of the bright orange, jack-o'-lantern-head pumpkins are imported.
They may not be home-grown, but the pumpkins draw in plenty of visitors like the Ceccarelli family.
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Stephanie Ceccarelli visited the orchard with her husband Chris and 3-year-old son Cruz Sunday. She had planned to just take family photos with the pumpkins and head home, noting she wanted to avoid the checkout line. This year, Cruz persuaded the family to take some of the bright orange pumpkins back with them.
But “the main priority for us is to get the shot,” Ceccarelli said, adding that it’s fun to look back through the years and see her son growing up each trip.
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“Pumpkins, we can get anywhere. But it really is for the memories through the photos that we get,” she said. “There’s just so much nostalgia every year when we look back.”
Friends Nina Perry and Diana Bobadilla also went to the orchard for photos, making a beeline for the sunflower fields as soon as they arrived.
The two said they enjoyed the time outdoors and wanted to capture the memory with Bobadilla's son, Benicio, who was being toted around in a wagon.
"It makes you feel like you're not in Vegas," Perry said.
"We only have summer and winter here," Bobadilla added.
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Laeeq Khan, director of the University of Ohio's Social Media Analytics Research Team lab, said pumpkin patch photos that circulate this time of year can be a result of a sort of chain reaction on social media, where Instagram or Facebook users see friends posting fall pictures and want to replicate the experience for themselves.
"I do think it is contagious at times," he said. "We feel that we need to also show that we’re living happy lives ... and that we also are part of this community and need to show that we’re also enjoying this fall weather or whatever activity it is."
"It doesn’t matter what the temperature is," he added. "The photo only shows the good image that we portray."
A 'really meaningful' time of year
Photos and social media play a role in drawing people to the orchard, but it’s not the only motivation.
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Katie Hoffman of Las Vegas came with her boyfriend and a friend this year to pick pumpkins and buy apple cider. She said the fall season is “super important” to her – so much so that she got three Halloween-themed bats tattooed on her leg.
“I grew up in a blended family where we had half-Catholic, half-Jewish, and so all of the holidays are weird," she said. "The one that didn’t have any expectations was Halloween . . . It was really meaningful for my family."
Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz.