Pumpkin patch reopens in Lower Valley with COVID-19 restrictions

HARLINGEN — In all shades of orange that bring autumn vibes, an annual event gets ready for visitors to arrive, with a few changes due to COVID-19.

First United Methodist Church, located at 321 E. Harrison Ave. in Harlingen, welcomed visitors to its pumpkin patch Monday morning.

According to organizers, the pumpkin patch has been a popular family activity since it first began. The church has kept the tradition for almost 15 years.

However, COVID-19 made organizers think twice before announcing the reopening.

Pastor J.J Wicke said if he had been asked two months ago if the pumpkin patch would be happening again, he would have said no.

But as the number of COVID-19 cases started going down, the decision was made to reopen while following the proper guidelines.

“We thought we could go ahead and move it. It is outside, and we felt comfortable with that because inside is more contagious and being outside already lowers the risk quite a bit,” Wicke said.

To accommodate CDC guidelines, organizers decided to move the location of the pumpkin patch from the usual church courtyard to an area across the church.

“Now we are on Fifth and Harrison, where we do not have a playground and we do not have to worry about children climbing or touching things,” Wicke said.

Hands-on activities, which used to be laid out around the patch, are not in place this year. These included bean bag toss and a corn table where children would play.

“We took all of that away and photo opportunities where you would put your face in,” Wicke said.

Everyone attending must wear a mask and organizers will be providing hand sanitizer.

Wicke said they will encourage families to stay together as a unit, and the limit will be 50 people at a time.

“We are following guidelines at the county and if there is more than 50 they will wait outside the patch,” he said.

The pumpkins arrived Sunday at 12:30 p.m. coming all the way from New Mexico.

Wicke said unloading began as soon as they arrived.

Entrance to the patch is free but attendants are welcome to purchase their favorite pumpkin. Prices range depending on the size starting from $1 to $30, and the proceeds go toward the church’s Backpacks for Kids ministry and Journey preschool program.

“We are ready and prepared. We hope folks are comfortable and enjoy the patch, we hope they come,” he said.