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Hand-picking pumpkins makes for fun at the patch

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Oct. 24, 2011 at 5:24 a.m.

Briley Rae Crisp, 6 months, sits among pumpkins at First United Methodist Church pumpkin patch. The patch has been selling pumpkins for 13 years and allows children to romp and play among the gourds.

If you go

Hours: 9 a.m. to dark, Monday through Saturday; noon to dark Sundays through Halloween.

Where: 407 N. Bridge St.

Benefits: Proceeds benefit the church's community assistance ministry, preschool and youth programs, vacation Bible school and other church activities.

Amy Franke was pregnant with 2-year-old Taryn Franke when she first visited the First United Methodist Church pumpkin patch in Victoria two years ago.

And with Halloween only days away, Franke decided to return to the patch with daughters Taryn and 5-year-old Ashtyn Franke for the second consecutive year.

"It makes really cute pictures and the kids really like it," Franke said.

Taryn and Ashtyn roamed through the church's pumpkin selection scattered throughout the front lawn on hay bails, and closely examined the many varieties and colors of winter gourds.

"I like this one. It looks like it has a hole in the back," Ashtyn said, holding up an olive-colored pumpkin. "I want to carve a kitty cat," on it. "I want a big pumpkin."

Franke said she used to purchase the girls' Halloween pumpkins at the grocery store, but bringing the children to the pumpkin patch allows her children to frolic through the lawn, and hand-select their own jack-o-lantern.

"It's just a fun thing to come to. There's a bigger variety here and they have all the different colors," Franke said.

Whether green, or orange, smooth or bumpy, Taryn and Ashtyn are allowed to select whatever pumpkin they find most appealing, Franke said - as long as it's not too expensive.

"I let them get pretty much anything they want," she said.

Linda Reeder, First United Methodist's pumpkin patch co-chairman, said the patch has been a beloved community staple for 13 years.

This year's 2,617 pumpkins that make up the patch came in all shapes and sizes from a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico, Reeder said. Another 19 boxes of miniature pumpkins are also on site, which are given to small children when they visit during weekly story time.

"We've had more than 1,200 school children visit the patch this year. And they're from all over: Victoria, Seadrift, Hallettsville, Port Lavaca and Woodsboro," Reeder said.

Pumpkins range in price from $3 to $30 and will be sold until Halloween evening.

"We will be there as long we have pumpkins to sell," Reeder said. "We've never sold out, but we've come close."

Leftover pumpkins will be donated to the Texas Zoo, area food banks, or local farmers.

Franke said visiting the pumpkin patch near Halloween is definitely a new tradition for her family, and recommends the experience for other families.

"I think it's a really good thing for the town. And it's something free for everyone to come do," Franke said.

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