Rotary's 'Pumpkins for Literacy' returns with new wrinkles this year

LAKEWOOD — The Plant Farm at Smokey Point is once again covered in pumpkins, but the Rotary Club of Marysville's annual "Pumpkins for Literacy" program has a few new wrinkles this year.

"We've got four weekends instead of three this year for our pumpkin patch," Marysville Rotary Past President Gayl Spilman said of the event, which kicks off on Oct. 8 and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, through Halloween, Oct. 31. "We still have the bouncy houses and the hay and train rides, though."

"We're aiming for about 260,000 pounds of pumpkins this year, even though I heard they're having a pumpkin shortage in Canada," Marysville Rotary Vice President Daryn Bundy said. "We did about 210,000 pounds last year. Every year, this event grows a little bit. In 14 years, we've given back more than $350,000 to the community through 'Pumpkins for Literacy.'"

The event has grown in the scope its mission this year as well.

"All our proceeds go to literacy programs in the community, but that's not just books in local elementary school libraries," Spilman said. "Community groups will be able to submit grants applications this year, which we'll be reviewing and distributing next year. It can be for after-school programs, English as a second language, adult leaning programs or anything else that's about literacy."

Spilman explained that, rather than handing out checks for $1,000 each to every elementary school in Marysville, Lakewood and Arlington, monies will be dispensed based on the needs of the schools and other organizations in question.

"Some schools might need more than others," Marysville Rotary Pumpkin Patch Chair Mitch DePriest said.

"We're still working out the details, but we expect to start accepting applications in November, after this year's pumpkin patch is done," Spilman said. "The end of the year will probably be the deadline to submit applications, and the grants could be distributed in late January or early February of next year."

In the meantime, Marysville Rotarians touted the entertaining activities that "Pumpkins for Literacy" offers to school groups and other attendees of all ages, from the petting zoo to the concession stand.

"We've had school groups come all the way from Edmonds and Seattle just to be here," Spilman said. "People have reserved tours and even birthday parties here."

"What I think is wonderful is when you see whole families having a good time together at the pumpkin patch," said fellow Marysville Rotarian Tom Albright, who was joined by his 4-year-old grandson Xander in helping place pumpkins in the patch on Oct. 4. "Everyone can have fun for little or no cost, and it's not uncommon to see two and three generations of the same families out here doing just that."

The Rotary Club of Marysville will have between seven and 10 volunteers each weekday, and around 15 volunteers each day of the weekends, on site to serve those attendees.

"I have a great group of people that's made my job so much easier," DePriest said. "No matter how short the notice, they'll show up to get the job done."

To book your own group at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point for "Pumpkins for Literacy," call Toni Mathews at the Marysville branch of the Whidbey Island Bank at 360-657-3100. Individual attendees may simply swing by the Plant Farm at Smokey Point, located at 15022 Twin Lakes Ave. in Marysville.

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