Photo by Joe Boyle
The tractor rides offered at the annual Pumpkin Patch at the First United Methodist Church of Oak Lawn is a popular feature at the event. The Pumpkin Patch will continue through Halloween.
By Joe Boyle
Some local traditions continue even during the height of a pandemic.
The 15th annual Pumpkin Patch returns to the grounds of First United Methodist Church of Oak Lawn, 10000 S. Central Ave., with some modifications to allow children and families to enjoy themselves safely.
Marty Linderborg, the current lay leader at the church, said there was no question that the annual family event would take place. Parents and kids like visiting this time of the year to pick out a pumpkin of any size that are placed along the church grounds. As in years past, hundreds of pumpkins are on display for everyone to choose from.
"Everyone has been very cooperative," said Linderborg, who has been active at the church since she was 5 years old. "We have signs posted reminding everyone to please mask up. No hands-on games are being held this year. We don't have the popcorn machine, for instance. That would be a little too messy. We didn't think it would be a good idea."
Linderborg, who grew up in Oak Lawn and now lives in Palos Park, has been active in several capacities at the church. She said they hold several events during the year, but the Pumpkin Patch is the most popular.
"Yes, this is the most popular for sure," Linderborg said. "It helps benefit a lot of agencies and food pantries. But the reason we have kept doing it is that it is fun. And there is so much tradition here. I've seen kids who were really young who keep coming back. Now they are adults and many of them have their own kids."
Linderborg suggests that during these uncertain times that the Pumpkin Patch provides a sense of comfort for adults and children alike. For adults, it recalls nice memories going back to their youth.
The annual event will continue through Saturday, Oct. 31, which is Halloween. The Pumpkin Patch will be offered from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 7 p.m. Sundays.
Visitors are reminded right away to wear masks or face coverings. Please wear masks signs are posted near the entrance and outside the tent. Guest are also reminded that the organizers of the event are following all CDC recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Linderborg said there may be some delays for some activities to maintain social distancing.
But while some activities have been postponed because of the pandemic, some other events have been introduced. A scarecrow building location has been set up to allow guests of all ages to make their own scarecrows.
But for guests of all ages, most of the activities are still familiar. Plenty of spaces are available to take photos. The popular tractor rides for kids has also returned.
And pumpkins and gourds of all shapes, colors and sizes will be spread across the church lawn. Linderborg said they offer a wide selection.
R.J. Balsan and his daughter, Ava Balsan, 7, of Chicago Ridge, were taking their time looking over the pumpkins. R.J. said they enjoy coming here. They later had three large pumpkins placed in a wagon ready to purchase.
"Yeah, why not? It only comes once a year," R.J. said.
The large Halloween and Christmas tent is once again available to peruse through. An assortment of craft items celebrating Halloween and Christmas are on display. The annual bake sale is also being held, which includes Dawn's famous pumpkin bread.
A parking lot sale featuring vendors and handmade items will be appearing from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 24.
As in most events that turn into annual traditions, Linderborg said this began through the church youth group 15 years ago who were collecting items for local food pantries. The idea of having pumpkins available on the church grounds was gradually included and just continued every year.
"It's a little different this year," Linderborg said. "But everyone is still having a lot of fun. And that's why we do this — this is always fun."