Pumpkins For Literacy fundraiser returns to the Smokey Point Plant Farm

Marysville Getchell Bio-Med Academy seniors Carolyn Le and Maile Levinsky heft some pumpkins at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point on Oct. 10. - Kirk Boxleitner
Marysville Getchell Bio-Med Academy seniors Carolyn Le and Maile Levinsky heft some pumpkins at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point on Oct. 10.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

LAKEWOOD — The Plant Farm at Smokey Point is again covered in pumpkins, as the Rotary Club of Marysville’s annual “Pumpkins for Literacy” program kicks off on Saturday, Oct. 12, and runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, through Halloween on Thursday, Oct. 31.

Marysville Rotary Pumpkin Patch Czar David Edmonds noted that the weather last year did its best to discourage many community members from turning out for the annual event, which still netted roughly $20,000 for Marysville and Lakewood school literacy programs, so he hopes to double those earnings this year.

“About as high as we ever got was $50,000, a few years back,” said Edmonds, who’s served as the Marysville Rotary Pumpkin Patch Czar perhaps half a dozen times by now — even he’s lost count — and was there when this event started a couple of decades ago. “Joel Hylback, owner of the Plant Farm, pitched us on the idea of a pumpkin patch, which we recognized right from the first was a great opportunity for some greater partnerships.”

Edmonds can even recall when Marysville Rotarians were able to take a hand in helping to grow and pick the pumpkins at the patch, before it got so big that they partnered with Frazier Farms of Mount Vernon to provide the pumpkins eight years ago.

“I’d estimate we’ve generated close to $400,000 over the course of the past 20 years or so, but our first pumpkin patch only raised maybe $6,500,” Edmonds said. “Thanks to this season fostering the warm, moist conditions that pumpkins crave, Frazier Farms were able to promise us a bumper crop of pumpkins this year, that were grown out of love and dedication to literacy, as well as grown out of chicken manure,” he laughed.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, 20 Marysville Rotarians were preparing the Plant Farm’s pumpkin patch site, by spreading bark, putting up signs, organizing the concession stand and setting up awnings. Marysville Rotarians returned to the site on the afternoons of Thursday, Oct. 10, and Friday, Oct. 11, to place the pumpkins on the field that Frazier Farms had delivered on the morning of Oct. 10. Students from the Kiwanis Key Club at Marysville Getchell High School joined in unloading the pumpkins from their crates on Oct. 10-11.

“I shouldn’t be telling you this, because it’s like peeking at how Santa Claus delivers his toys,” Edmonds laughed, before thanking a number of groups for helping to make the pumpkin patch possible, from the Rotary and high school volunteers to the Sky Valley Stock and Antique Tractor Club, as well as additional volunteers from the Marysville and Arlington stakes of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “About 60 members of the Rotary Club of Marysville will be taking turns working in shifts to keep the pumpkin patch going, after the pumpkins have magically appeared on the field.”

Edmonds acknowledged that the “Pumpkins for Literacy” program’s methods of allocating its funds have undergone slight revisions in recent years, its focus on literacy programs has remained intact.

“We’re always looking for the most effective ways to impact literacy with the monies we raise,” said Edmonds, who noted that Rotary had previously dispensed dictionaries to third-grade students, but last year handed out thousands of Scholastic Press books to first-, second- and third-graders throughout Marysville and Lakewood. “Even if the people who come out to the patch don’t buy pumpkins, they can still support literacy and treat the whole family to some fun, whether on rides of the Rotary train and the hay wagon, playing with the animals in the petting zoo or enjoying themselves in the bouncy houses. But they can do all that and also take home some pumpkins.”

Marysville Rotarian and School Board President Chris Nation expressed his appreciation to Rotary for what its pumpkin patch furnishes for Marysville schools in need.

“It’s allowed our schools’ libraries to provide books that just wouldn’t be there otherwise, because of budget cuts,” Nation said. “I know kids are reading more books online, but there are still plenty of them who love reading hardbound books.”

Although the Rotary Club of Marysville is no longer buying students hardbound dictionaries, due to the availability of online dictionaries, Nation touted the value of those dictionaries to the students who received them in the past.

“For many of them, it was their first dictionary, and maybe even the first book that they owned,” Nation said. “As we handed those books out, we made sure they understood that these were items that belonged to them. Poverty can affect people’s lives in a lot of ways, but giving these kids books that were their own was one way of helping them. We still hear from parents who talk about the impact that those dictionaries had on the kids who received them half a dozen years ago.”

Fellow Marysville Rotarian and Lakewood High School Principal Dale Leach’s current students are too old to benefit directly anymore from book donations to younger grades, but he expects to see the benefits to the students he’ll be welcoming to the high school a few years from now.

“If they’re not already reading at grade level by high school, that affects the rest of their educational careers and their lives,” Leach said. “Getting books into kids’ hands when they’re still young provides them with a phenomenal opportunity, and increases their chances of success.”

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

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