Papa's Pumpkin Patch sat empty last fall amid the coronavirus pandemic, but it's opening for the season Sunday with new photo displays and 26 varieties of pumpkins, squashes and gourds.
"We're anxious to welcome back all our guests," said Cory Finneman, the patch's general manager and a member of the family that operates the site.
The pumpkin patch northwest of Bismarck stayed closed last year. It typically receives numerous guests and volunteers, many of whom are retirees, and the staff didn't want to put their safety at risk. The business lost revenue because of the closure and couldn't make the many donations it normally does to support local nonprofits and education, Finneman said. It's given over $1 million in charitable donations since it opened in 1983.
A smaller patch that neighbors Papa's still provided pumpkins for families last year. But Finneman said he heard from some regulars that they were disappointed not to be able to take the same photos they do every year at Papa's, such posing the family atop a giant chair or in front of a barn.
This year, families will have a lot of photo opportunities. The patch has put up backdrops, old-fashioned lanterns and life-sized photo frames certain to make their way onto many Bismarck-Mandan residents' Instagram and Facebook profiles.
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"We see a lot of high school and college-aged kids coming, and while they might pick up a small pumpkin for a dorm room or their bedroom, they are typically here to take pictures," Finneman said.
There are also photo areas geared toward younger kids, along with a new tree fort and slide, as well as giant games for families to play. The patch is decked out with more chrysanthemums than it's ever had before.
Guests can choose from regular orange pumpkins and other varieties that are white or have green stripes. New to Papa's this year is a yellow pumpkin variety.
The drought that has plagued North Dakota farmers all summer has also taken a toll on the local pumpkin crop, Finneman said. The patch sells pumpkins from growers in the Bismarck-Mandan area and Fort Rice, but it might need to bring in more pumpkins from farther away this year, he said. Papa's restocks its yard about five times during a typical fall.
Papa's is still looking for volunteers this season. Anyone interested can fill out the volunteer form on its website at www.papaspumpkinpatch.com.
General admission to the patch is $6 per person. Infants and toddlers 2 and under can enter for free. The patch is open from noon to 7 p.m. daily, weather permitting, from Sunday through Oct. 23.
Reach Amy R. Sisk at 701-250-8252 or email@example.com.