Pumpkins for Literacy - Rotary recipe turns pumpkins into books for three school districts

Amy Norris of Sooke, British Columbia, gets a laugh from a goat named Daryn Jr. at the Pumpkins for Literacy patch opening on Oct. 7 at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point.  From left are Daryn Jr., Amy and father Roger. -
Amy Norris of Sooke, British Columbia, gets a laugh from a goat named Daryn Jr. at the Pumpkins for Literacy patch opening on Oct. 7 at the Plant Farm at Smokey Point. From left are Daryn Jr., Amy and father Roger.
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SMOKEY POINT Its a pumpkin patch with a catch, and thats to get kids reading earlier, faster and better.
The Marysville Noon Rotarys Pumpkins for Literacy sale opened at a new, larger location next to the freeway last weekend and organizers say the event is off to a bloomin start. The larger site at the newly remodeled Plant Farm at Smokey Point has more room for pumpkins, people and playing, and bookings for field trips are more than double last years totals.
Daryn Bundy is chairman of the project for the second year, and he said more than 3,000 children are signed up to visit the patch; last year at opening there were 1,200 lined up for visits. The pumpkin patch has raised more than $90,000 over the last seven years to benefit reading efforts in the Arlington, Lakewood and Marysville school districts, and Bundy hopes to expand the handle.
Were in the book business, not the pumpkin business, explained Bundy. He hopes to double last years gross receipts of $48,000, which yielded about $25,000 net to the reading efforts. This year Id like to see us up there in the $80,000 to $90,000 range.
But theres more than money to be made, Bundy stressed. The classroom field trips and visits are fun-filled activities, but before they get on the bus students are given a quiz with answers to be found at the pumpkin patch.
Were making this an actual literacy project with the Marysville School District, Bundy said. Its still fun, but its fun learning,
The event is free for families to enjoy, with a petting zoo, bouncy house, hay rides and train rides, all gratis; the event sells pumpkins and concessions, turning the proceeds into dictionaries. The Marysville Noon and Morning Rotaries are combining to provide hardback dictionaries to all fourth-graders in the Marysville and Lakewood schools. School field trips cost $3 per child.
The Kerr family drove all the way from Shoreline just for the opening of the month-long event on Oct. 7. Father Steve and mother Stacey Lara-Kerr watched their daughters Greta and Harper frolicking in the ankle high grass with pumpkins bigger than the girls, ages three years and seven months, respectively. Lara-Kerr said this was the familys first trip.
We gotta get pumpkins and we love bouncy houses, she said.
Roger Norris is a New Zealand native now living in Sooke, British Columbia. While his wife was spending money at the Seattle Premium Outlets mall at Quil Ceda Village, he and their two-year-old daughter Amy were feeding a miniature goat the Rotarians named Daryn, Jr.
Cecil Lacy from the reservation was giving a wheelbarrow ride to his daughter and niece, C.C. Lacy, five, and Joylee Lacy, eight years old.
We usually do it every year, he said.
Rotary volunteer Don Whitfield lives nearby on Fire Trail Road and his wife Debbie is a special education teacher in the Marysville School District, so education is close to their hearts. As he passed out brochures on a sunny Saturday he motioned to the new Pumpkin Junction train station and expanded concessions and play areas at the nursery entrance on Twin Lakes Avenue.
This is a big upgrade from where we were, Whitfield said.
The new digs have a depot for kids to embark and disembark from the train rides, with a wash station for those who get physical petting the cows, turkeys and goats at the zoo. Bundy said the people werent the only ones happy with the new facility; the pair of turkeys have already laid three eggs, he laughed.
We wanted to create a space where families could do more for free, Bundy said, adding that his fellow Rotarians have a kick volunteering at least three times during the month-long event. The patch is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until Oct. 29, and is located south of Gissberg Twin Lakes Park at the new Plant Farm at Smokey Point on Twin Lakes Avenue, west of I-5.

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