Latest News – October 21

Pumpkin Patch Marks 17 Years on Oct. 28

It’s that time of year, for all things pumpkin! So as the harvest season brings America’s favorite gourds to your holiday celebrations, be sure to include Leadville’s Pumpkin Patch in your plans.

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First Place Pumpkin Patch Costume 2014 Contest Winners: Mr and Mrs Bone Jangles are (from left to right) Aries, Alejandro, Azalea and Arian Tapia. Congratulations!

Next Saturday, Oct. 28 the 17th Annual Leadville Pumpkin Patch will be held from 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the 6th Street Gym. One of the locals’ favorites, this yearly event now sees Leadville parents bringing their children, to the Halloween carnival that they grew up with. It’s a family tradition, passed down as readily as those costumes, from generation to generation!

Unlike traditional Trick-or-Treat, this event was created with the little kids in mind. It’s a place for them to show off their costumes and enjoy some old-school, carnival games in a safe, warm environment.  Admission is FREE with games starting at 50 cents, to win prizes and more!  Last year’s hay maze was a big hit and will return, along with lots of baked goods for sale and a chili and hot dog lunch. It’s time to celebrate the season at the Pumpkin Patch!

Pumpkin Seeds: The History

This Leadville tradition dates back to 2000, and like many, has seen its highs and lows over the years. So, Leadville Today caught up with one of today’s Pumpkin Patch committee members Stacy Petty, to see what’s new and what small-town touches have been sentimentally maintained.

“The Pumpkin Patch is 100% volunteers,” explained Petty, who is also the Council Coordinator with the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Council, one of the beneficiaries of the event. 

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Simple, creative fun is what the kids can expect at the Pumpkin Patch in Leadville next Saturday, Oct. 28.

“We have a committee of 17, and the day-of the-event, there are 40 volunteers.”

It’s an organizational step that, most likely, needed to happen in order for the event to continue. Started in 2000 by a group of mothers whose children have now gone off to college or work full-time, Leadville’s Pumpkin Patch was created for the younger kiddos. After all, the traditional Trick-or-Treat scene at 10,200 feet can be a lot colder – and scarier – for the smaller children who want to celebrate Halloween.

In fact, the first seeds for this truly grass-roots tradition were created from old doors and left over electrical wire, donated by local tradesmen/ husbands who were building the multi-million dollar homes over in Vail. These “resort scraps” were magically transformed into carnival games like the Penny Pitch, or sculpted into a giant spider, just scary enough to get your attention. Some of those humble beginnings can still be seen, although most have been replaced with more-manufactured, “safe” activities.

On The Vine: 10 Years Strong

And so it went for Leadville’s Pumpkin Patch, as those early years went along, people came and went, contributing what they could. But as the event marked a decade, most of the original committee members had stepped off, now shuttling their teen-aged children to more age-appropriate activities.

During this time, had it not been for Melissa Hill of Leadville, the pumpkins might have all but withered in the patch. Fortunately, a solid organizer, Hill was able to bring strong leadership to the tradition, allowing it to continue into the next decade.

“I can’t imagine doing this all myself,” stated present-day organizer Petty, as the history of the Pumpkin Patch was discussed. Fortunately, before anyone’s’ pumpkin pie was over-baked and burned out for good, new committee members, and parents with young children rallied, and the baton was passed, yet again. So the Pumpkin Patch lives on, along with many of its core traditions, plus a few changes.

A New Harvest: Ripe for Success!

In this latest chapter, in an effort to not rely so heavily on financial support from Leadville businesses, the Pumpkin Patch now solicits grant funding. Additionally, the committee has established a relationship with a “fiduciary agent,” in order to comply with Internal Revenue Service regulations concerning donations, thereby “establishing more transparency.” The group even has a formal Pumpkin Patch Committee Manual.

Today, the event is coordinated in cooperation with the Rocky Mountain Early Childhood Council, a program that operates locally under the more familiar Head Start Program at The Center. In fact, aside from the $1500 set aside for the following year’s seed money, according to Petty, any funds raised from The Pumpkin Patch go directly to licensed childcare.

But what brings this model up to the next level, is that those monies are distributed to BOTH public and private programs in Leadville. While enthusiastically discussed last year, the committee determined that the monies would go towards The Center’s Learn-to-Ski program ($1400), as well as to Bright Star Early Learning Center ($1000), a private, licensed day care facility in Leadville.

The Pumpkin Patch Committee is also committed to making sure that Leadville businesses are still engaged with the event, but in a model that moves away from the “give-me” approach. For example, Petty explained, Cookies With Altitude has been a long-time supporter of the annual event, but now the Pumpkin Patch pays for the ingredients that the local bakery staff makes into baked goods to be sold to raise funds. It’s a thoughtful model that leads the way towards healthy public/private relationships, and away from the unaccountable, hand-out programs that many believe contribute to an environment of entitlement, rather than accountability and responsibility.

Furthermore, The Pumpkin Patch has a solid track record for putting its mouth where its healthy message is by offering pumpkin and zucchini breads, as well the sweeter cupcake treats. Parents should also take note that the event also does not distribute candy. It’s all part of an ever-growing Leadville tradition that improves with each harvest season! So, get those costumes ready to go, and make sure the phone is charged up to take plenty of pictures -it’s Pumpkin Patch time!

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