Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fun Times in the Pumpkin Patch; It's More Than Just Buying for Halloween

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fun Times in the Pumpkin Patch; It's More Than Just Buying for Halloween

Article excerpt

Byline: SANDY STRICKLAND

The Great Pumpkin has arrived to beguile Westside youngsters. So has the medium-sized pumpkin. And the miniature pumpkin.

Thousands of them.

The vivid orange gourds have been artfully arranged among scarecrows, corn stalks and bales of hay at Ortega United Methodist Church, 4807 Roosevelt Blvd., and Lake Shore United Methodist Church, 2246 Blanding Blvd.

These giant pumpkin patches are enough to make Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang envious. And it's a Halloween treat -- not a trick -- for Westside preschoolers attending story hour in the pumpkin patches.

"One of the things that makes it so special is that kids here don't get to see farmlands and crops," said Gayle Runion, co-director of the Ortega church's playschool. "When they walk in, they're surrounded by pumpkins, and they can touch them and climb on them."

Ortega has been sponsoring a pumpkin patch for at least 10 years. Its hours are 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. through Monday, Oct. 31. A truckload of 3,000 was delivered Oct. 1 and another 3,000 Wednesday.

Ortega and Lake Shore purchase their pumpkins from a Navajo Indian reservation in New Mexico. Proceeds support their youth ministries. Ortega's young people, for instance, plan to go on a summer mission trip.

Olivia Scheuth, 4, who attends Ortega's playschool, was bedazzled by the array of choices.

"I picked out two big ones and two little ones to take home," Olivia said. "I saw a white one, some red ones and some green ones, too. I've never seen so many."

Olivia and other Ortega students enjoyed storytime in the patch. Nearby preschools bring their children as well. For information, call 389-5556. Another attraction is having pictures made in a special section of the patch.

Part of Ortega's fall festivities included a performance by magician Barry Hinnant who had a class of 4-year-olds roaring with laughter and bouncing up and down as he tried to control a "magic" wand that took on a life of its own.

"He was so funny," said Meghan Oliver, 4, giggling in recollection. "All the kids in the school laughed at all the things that went really really wrong."

Meanwhile, Lake Shore is selling its 4,000 pumpkins from 10 a. …

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