THE CONFEDERATE soldiers standing guard on Fort Pumpkin's turrets hardly look menacing. They're just a few of the 60 burlap-faced scarecrows who greet visitors to the Reston Farm Market and its sixth annual fall celebration.

Every day through the end of October, the Fort Pumpkin Festival offers free activities for children. Within a stockade-fronted 300-by-300-foot area behind the market, youngsters can climb haystacks, go through a tunnel, ride mechanical horses and guess the weight of a giant pumpkin. The festival also features several educational and entertaining highlights, chiefly related to American Indians.

As rain poured during the fort's opening Oct. 11, Native Americans performed inside a tent sweet with the aroma of hundreds of apples. Children and their parents watched as Sioux dancer Marty Good Bear did an elaborate dance featuring configurations of up to 35 symbolic hoops at once. As the ceremonial number drew to a close, the dancer skillfully maneuvered the hoops into giant eagle wings, then used several circles to form a globe.

"{The dance} represents each and every one of us working together to take care of the world," he explained afterward.

Fort Pumpkin wouldn't be complete without pumpkins, and Reston Farm Market owner Hall Kern says he will carry 200 tons of the fruit in the course of the season, as well as gourds, apples and cider.

Mary Jane Solomon last wrote for Weekend about the little horses of Gettysburg.