Pumpkin patch draws large West Plains crowds
Earnings help support Teen Challenge’s recovery program
John, Dylan and Michael, volunteers at the pumpkin patch and residents with the Teen Challenge program, hold some of the animals at the mini petting zoo.
By JAMES EIK
Inflatable jump toys, a seemingly endless streak of orange and some old-fashioned community personality all mix together to make for an entertaining family getaway right in Airway Heights.
Teen Challenge, a local non-profit residency program that helps rehabilitate those with life-controlling issues, is running its first pumpkin patch on Hazelwood Road just off Highway 2. Unmistakably lined with orange fencing, the pumpkin patch has plenty of activities for both the young and young at heart. The event runs until the end of October.
For an admission price of $7 per person, families can enjoy the fall atmosphere without driving long distances. And, at the end of their visit, kids can choose any one of the hundreds of large pumpkins lining the area. There’s also a petting zoo, complete with a miniature horse, baby goats and piglets, all from the Teen Challenge residential farm.
“It’s a win-win,” Tony Cloud, program coordinator, said. “They’re supporting a charitable organization that’s right there in our community. And then they’re getting to be part of an event and enjoy an activity with their family.”
Cloud said the event saw over 300 people in its first Saturday, far beyond their expectations. Similar events in the area, he said, draw around 75 percent of their guests in the last couple of weeks of the month.
“We’re anticipating larger and larger crowds every weekend,” he said.
For many, just having an activity of this kind nearby is enough to prompt a visit.
“One of the comments we’ve gotten a lot is that it’s conveniently located,” Cloud said. “They can have a nice harvest experience here.”
During the week, when school is in session, some schools are going on field trips to the pumpkin patch. Cloud said students burn off plenty of energy on the giant inflatables and loose hay pen, where candy and money are waiting to be found.
A bit of horticulture even makes its way into the fun, with one of the volunteers dressing as a scarecrow, who goes through the growth process of a pumpkin, from a seed to a fruit. Cloud said the volunteer then ties in a quick life lesson for kids, encouraging them to make good choices.
“We want to plant good seeds by the choices we make in our life, so that good things grow in our life,” he said.
Proceeds from the event will go to Teen Challenge, a Christian faith-based residential recovery program. Just one of its fundraising efforts throughout the year, the organization sells Christmas trees at the same location in a couple of months. Funds raised help to provide the free program to those seeking to enroll.
“This is one of those ways we’re able to maintain that commitment,” Cloud said. “We’re helping people that don’t have the means to help themselves, so we do fundraising to offset the costs of providing the program.”
Currently, 45 full-time students take part in the program, where they live on a 33-acre campus in Airway Heights for 12 months.
For more information on the event, visit the Teen Challenge Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/TeenChallengePumpkinPatch.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.