Spooky Celebrations in a COVID World

“It’s that good family interaction that’s been missing for a few years as everyone realizes how important the outdoors is and the quality time we spend together” – says Loren Bauman at Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden on visiting your local pumpkin patch this fall. 

This year has presented many highs and lows for members of our community. We’ve seen individuals work together to do their part for the greater good in keeping their friends and family safe and staying sane in such uncertain times. Though every day looks different, local pumpkin patches are gearing up to open their doors for the community, safely of course. While many of our favorite places and activities are suspended due to the pandemic, we can still enjoy the holiday season to an extent. The Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms and Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden are extending their space and resources this season, COVID style.

What are your plans for the pumpkin patch? How did you arrive at these plans?

Erin Bird, Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms: Usually, we have a pumpkin festival for one weekend in October that coincides with our corn maze at our Chatfield Farms location which is in the south suburbs of Denver. With COVID-19, we thought that there was no way that we could continue with the festival in a safe way because it usually attracts over 10,000 people. We wanted to of course still offer pumpkins because we have a 10-acre pumpkin patch and the pumpkins are grown and ready to go. So what we decided to do is open the pumpkin patch so people could still browse the patch and pick a pumpkin to purchase and take home without all the added entertainment elements of the traditional pumpkin festival.

Loren Bauman, Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden: Our pumpkin patch is going to be the same as it’s always been. Being a retail store, we’ve done pumpkins for close to 30 years now. We have a local grower that brings them to us, and we do them in a couple of different locations. In the retail area, we spread some pumpkins on a table, and also on the ground in the area so children can walk through them and look at them. It’s not going to be a typical year when you walk through the vines as most of the crops would’ve died with the big snow at the beginning of September. We try to make it family-friendly and although we can’t do as much as we used to with the way everything is right now, it’s still a fun experience for the kids. We have some little things for the kids including a maze, some coloring sheets to take home, a corn pit, and corn stocks, and then we will have disinfectant near all of these things for people to stay safe during this time. It’s all outdoors, so with a lot of space guests can still enjoy themselves and our patch is open with rain, sun, snow, and pretty much all times. We made a few adjustments with spacing but most folks coming in have been doing it for years with the five acres of land that we have to offer!

How is the COVID-19 pandemic impacting your fall business?

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms: We generally have had to reduce our capacity for daily attendance so that has definitely made a big difference in the number of visitors we can welcome each day to both our York Street and Chatfield Farms locations. But, it is something that is very important to do for the safety of our staff, volunteers, and visitors. So what we have been doing for our special events from the spring and all the way through now to the end of the year, is we have had to reimagine how they will work with the capacity, and with the flow we are doing one-way paths through all of our events. We are also changing the types of entertainment and special offerings within each event that really limits the amount of interaction between visitors and staff and also the amount of hands-on type of things we have removed. So for the corn maze, not much has changed excluding that you have to have a timed entry with an advanced ticket. No tickets will be sold at the door. We’re doing a one-way route and we also eliminated after dark mazes and haunted mazes that were separate within the cornfield and right now we’re just doing a day-time corn maze. We do anticipate still seeing a lot of visitors and also a lot of pumpkins being sold.

Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden: The pandemic really hasn’t impacted business. Because everyone is at home now, people are wanting to do stuff they’ve been looking to do for the past few years but they just didn’t have the time. When it comes to gardening, they’re learning themselves and trying to teach their children how to grow seeds, harvest tomatoes, peppers, etc. It’s a great experience for these families to decide what they can plant in the fall and what they can do in the spring. We see more families coming in which we’ve always strived for anyways being a family business in addition to new and old gardeners who are visiting our space. We also see people who have been here for years, so it’s great to have those familiar faces even in these times.

Have there been any positive outcomes to come out of this situation?

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms: Yes, it has created opportunities for us to try new things and to think outside the box while getting more creative with our special event offerings, education programs, and our virtual engagement. We have seen a huge growth in engagement on our social media channels and it has given us more opportunities to share more virtual tours of the gardens and do online classes and workshops which we had never done before. That is something that we plan to continue doing even after the pandemic is done just to have online offerings so people outside of the Denver area can still engage with us in exciting ways. The pandemic has allowed us to grow in those capacities but of course, it has been challenging with limiting the number of people and the ways that people can engage with us on site. But that is something we’re taking very seriously, and we’re happy to reduce capacity and enforce rules of safety with masks and social distancing to make sure everyone is as safe as possible when they engage with us.

Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden: It’s hard to predict with everything that’s going on and the weather is actually one of the biggest factors impacting our patch. This year, I know a couple of other places that do pumpkins as well and we started growing them earlier than normal. The season is starting earlier with the fall thing going and once it gets to Halloween, there will be fewer pumpkins available because everyone is going earlier this year. Luckily, we have been doing this for the last 20-30 years and know what we do in pumpkins works with the same grower so we have a good supply that can guarantee.

Should people still be excited about pumpkin patches this season? At yours, what should they be excited for?

Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield Farms: There are a lot of corn mazes and pumpkin patches in the area and I’m not sure if they are all continuing as planned so there might be a few more options this year, but we’re just happy that we are able to still have the event and didn’t have to cancel the corn maze. We’re hoping that people are understanding of the reimagined pumpkin patch that of course is unique to what has happened in past years. However, we still are able to offer space for people to go walk through the field to pick their own pumpkins as a special fall holiday tradition for families.

Do you think patches can potentially thrive during this time?

Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden: Yes, I think they can. Assuming that the frost didn’t take care of a lot of the patches, they should do just fine. It’s a matter of being able to take care of the space that these patches can handle. For the most part, it’s outside and pumpkin patches can do fine. The most positive thing is we’re starting to see that families are trying to get back out and do some of the stuff in their yard to make themselves happy. They have their grass and their garden and they can learn to grow stuff and learn about the benefits of fresh food, good, and bad insects and that nature have a way of working itself out. The kids are happy and they get to come in and say, “oh look mom I planted this flower” and they can bring it home as well.

Tell me a little bit about your event on September 26th.

Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden: For us, it’s all about making sure we have space for our pumpkin festival at the end of September. Normally we have bouncy castles, and it’s a one-day event and we usually have music and face painters. This year, we’ve had to definitely bring that down. We have to be careful with the number of folks that are on-site with the limits in place. Instead of face painters, we’re doing some individual tattoos so each kid can still get something special. We still have the maze and some other games with space and disinfectant. It’s pretty much a free event other than paying for food vendors who have their own health codes to go through as well. We usually have chairs for people to sit in and watch us weigh the pumpkins, but this year we won’t have those available. Everything is limited but there’s still a large area. We normally do a pumpkin drop, and hopefully, we’re dropping a 1,700-pound pumpkin from a crane this year. That’s one that’s kind of fun for people, and it closes out the event. So a few changes have been made, but most people have been pretty good with everything going on as everything is modified nowadays, and hopefully, we get back to a normal again of course. As for the festival, we’re still excited to be doing it in more of a condensed fashion. We could possibly set two different state pumpkin weight records this year, as we have an out-of-state grower from Utah coming in. In 2016, we weighed at 1,625 pounds. When you see a pumpkin bigger than your body like that, it’s something cool to see. It makes kids want to start growing. Though it isn’t likely they’ll grow that big of a pumpkin, they can grow a 100-200 pound one pretty easily just in the backyard. It’s based on the seed and they can water and use organic fertilizer. It’s a way to bond and we typically have a kids group that brings in pumpkins to weigh as well.

It is the 20th anniversary of the corn maze at Chatfield Farms, so make sure to go visit them and help celebrate the long-standing tradition that they’ve upheld. The corn maze is seven acres and is open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays September 18th – October 31st. The pumpkin patch will be in full swing Mondays – Thursdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Fridays – Sundays from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Admission information and pricing can be found on their website. They ask that visitors purchase their tickets online beforehand with respect to following social distancing guidelines.

Head over to Jared’s Nursery, Gift, and Garden’s website for more information about their annual pumpkin festival this weekend, the retail shop, the pumpkin patch, and more! 

As Colorado Residents, we are lucky to have gems like these two patches in our community. Though the weather may be sporadic in the near future, make sure to take some time for yourself and your family to enjoy the fall months and all that our beautiful state has to offer. With both these patches less than a 30-minute drive from most AvidLifestyle readers, it’s worth it to throw on your most eccentric fall outfit and get ready to pick the ultimate pumpkins for carving or decoration!