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Pumpkin Patch Booming In Third Year

“Until the second week in August, we didn’t have anything bigger than an apple. Then, as soon as it got hot, away they went.”

– DON PODOBNI

The cool, late spring this year gave the operators of the Pumpkin Patch a bit of a scare, but a warm August saw a reversal of fortunes that left them with a bumper crop of pumpkins, gourds and squash.

“We were worried that we were going to have nothing,” said operator Don Podobni.

“Until the second week in August, we didn’t have anything bigger than an apple. Then, as soon as it got hot, away they went.”

What’s more, the unusually mild September weather that gave farmers ample reason to be grateful around their Thanksgiving tables, sent visitor numbers to the Pumpkin Patch near Oak Lake skyrocketing.

The weekend before last, when temperatures soared in a last hurrah of summerlike weather, saw a record 1,700 people pay $3 each to tour the farm-based attraction, buy pumpkins to carve for Halloween, and generally savour the afternoon.

Since Don and Judy Podobni and business partner Louise Stitt started the Meandher Creek Pumpkin Patch three years ago with just a simple shed, a small petting zoo, wagon rides and a corn maze, they have continuously added new elements to draw visitors.

A spook house and zip line rides offering thrills for the youngsters were added last year, and a veranda with chairs and tables outside the store selling cakes and snacks was ready in time for 2009. Inside washrooms with change tables and flush toilets were also added this year.

“Our clientele is lots of kids, so they need change tables,” he said. “That’s made a lot of moms really happy.”

The sheltered area is a favourite of the older folks who like to enjoy a coffee and rest a bit while watching the grandkids burn off excess energy by roaming around the site.

The pumpkin slingshot, he added, was a big draw. Made from the same super-stretchy thin rubber hose used to suspend collection harnesses in PMU barns, and with a pouch crafted by a local leatherworker, the slingshot can hurl a small pumpkin well over 25 yards.

Podobni started the Pumpkin Patch as a diversification project for his 640-acre cattle operation after he quit working part time in the local oilfield.

It has also been a boon for local teenagers. At peak times – typically the Thanksgiving long weekend – as many as 12 of them are hired to help out and collect tickets at the activity stations around the site.

A lot of visitors come from Brandon, said Podobni, but many come from smaller towns in all directions and as far away as Maryfield, Saskatchewan.

The Pumpkin Patch is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12-6 p. m., and holidays. Thursdays and Fridays are school tour days when the site is closed to the public.

“We get lots of repeats from that because the kids go home and their brother and sister wasn’t on the school tour,” said Podobni. “It’s really good advertising.”

daniel. winters @fbcpublishing.com

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