LAKEWOOD — The Plant Farm at Smokey Point is again covered in pumpkins as the Rotary Club of Marysville’s annual “Pumpkins for Literacy” program gears up to kick off on Saturday, Oct. 6, and run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, through Halloween on Wednesday, Oct. 31.
Around a dozen Rotarians were joined by half a dozen friends and family members at the Plant Farm on Saturday, Sept. 29, to start placing pumpkins and preparing the site for visitors, whose dollars from their pumpkin purchases will go back into the surrounding community.
“We’ll probably set out about 10 tons of pumpkins today, and 20 tons by later next week,” Marysville Rotary Pumpkin Patch Czar David Edmonds said on Sept. 29. “It should add up to about 40 tons total throughout the event.”
Although the “Pumpkins for Literacy” program’s methods of allocating its funds underwent a slight revision a couple of years ago, its focus on literacy programs has remained intact.
“We’ve been looking to simplify the process,” said Edmonds, who noted that Rotary had previously handed out checks for $1,000 each to every elementary school in Marysville, Lakewood and Arlington.
“Pumpkins for Literacy” monies are now dispensed based on the needs of the schools and other organizations in question. While 100 percent of the Pumpkin Patch proceeds go to literacy programs in the community, these are no longer limited to books in local elementary school libraries. Last year, community groups were able to submit grant applications for after-school programs, English as a second language, adult learning programs and anything else connected to literacy, which Rotary reviewed and distributed this year.
“Through partnering with other organizations, we’re hoping to raise as much as $50,000 and perhaps even double the amounts we dispense to each school,” Edmonds said.
In the meantime, Rotarians reflected on the history of this event as they hefted pumpkins onto the grassy field on Sept. 29.
“It’s just a great chance for families to enjoy themselves and relax,” Marysville Rotary President Kelly Peterson said. “I look forward to being together with my own family, without stressing over deadlines. Of course, Rotary is my extended family,” he laughed.
Fellow Rotarians David Rumsey and Loren Van Loo recalled when the Rotarians themselves had to plant pumpkin seeds by hand and then harvest the pumpkins for the Pumpkin Patch, roughly a decade ago, while former Marysville Mayor Dennis Kendall echoed Peterson’s characterization of the Pumpkin Patch as a family-friendly activity.
“Kids can walk around through the mud and their parents won’t mind,” Kendall said. “Anybody can afford to come by and pick up a pumpkin without it costing an arm and a leg.”
The Plant Farm will again serve as the site for familiar favorites for all ages, such as the petting zoo, the bouncy houses, the hay and train rides, and the concession stand. Toni Mathews is likewise resuming her duties of booking tour groups to the Plant Farm for the Pumpkin Patch, which Terry Brandon, executive director of human resources for the Marysville School District, deemed a valuable educational resource for the school groups from Marysville, Arlington and Lakewood who will be visiting it throughout the month.
“We are so grateful to the Rotary for their funding,” Brandon said. “We hear from kids and parents alike at the schools how much they enjoy and appreciate this. It really shows the community’s support for its school districts.”
To book your own group at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point for “Pumpkins for Literacy,” contact Mathews at the Marysville branch of the Whidbey Island Bank, by phone at 360-657-3100 for via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Individual attendees may simply swing by the Plant Farm at Smokey Point, located at 15022 Twin Lakes Ave. in Marysville.