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BISMARCK, N.D. -- Papa's Pumpkin Patch opens today to celebrate another autumn with "just pure fun," according to owner Dave Pearce.

About 1,500 children are already scheduled for field trips to the patch. Pearce expects close to 6,000 day care and school children to visit by the end of the season.

“It’s all about family, education and fun,” Pearce said. “Our pumpkin patch is a wonderful opportunity to give back to the area.”

Since its beginning, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch has contributed more than $375,000 to charitable organizations.

This year the pumpkin patch offers all of its traditional activities, including the corn maze, nature trails, obstacle courses and zip lines, but it also has some new features.

The patch has replaced its big castles with several smaller places.

Pearce said that is to prevent parents from having to search when their child gets lost in the castle and it provides more places and spaces for the kids to enjoy.

Papa’sville has a new rumble seat cart and the pedal-carts have a brand new racetrack instead of what Pearce called last year’s mud mess.

One of this year’s highlights, Pearce said, is the new corn box, a twist on the sandbox where the sand is replaced by corn.

He said the idea was accidental when a corn box was built around a monument at the patch in Mandan to prevent accidents from sharp corners. But the children began playing in the corn.

“I had no idea they would enjoy playing with corn kernels the way they did,” Pearce said.

The box will be created by surrounding the area with big hay bales. It will be filled with 300 bushels of kernels.

“The kids won’t get sand in their shoes, but they’ll have corn kernels in places they didn’t know they had spaces,” Pearce said.

On Thursday evernings and weekends, families also will be able to participate in horse-drawn carriage rides and pony rides.

The concessions at the pumpkin patch include pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pie, pizza and nachos.

Visitors can purchase pumpkins, squash, gourds, decorative corn, straw bales and corn stalks.

Entrance to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is $4 per person, though entry for children 2 years old and under is free.

Reach reporter Karee Magee at 701-250-8251 or karee.magee@bismarcktribune.com.

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