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In the Pumpkin Patch with Kids

Halloween is Saturday, and many parents are wary of letting their children trick-or-treat because of COVID-19. But there’s nothing spooky about another fall ritual — picking out pumpkins.

At Coonamessett Farm last week, five-year-old Maureen Shannon and her brother Grady, 4, were drawn to the chicken barn, with its flock cluck-clucking in the outdoor pen and, inside, two small goats eyeing visitors with curiosity.

But the afternoon’s real mission was all things pumpkin, said their dad, Joe Shannon.

“We’re going to roast pumpkins seeds this afternoon and make jack-o-lanterns,” he said.

The children chased one another through the fields. They tried their hands at picking up some pumpkins that proved a bit too heavy.

“Grady likes a big one,” Maureen said.

Farm fun is out in the open air and considered a safe activity during the pandemic. With many Halloween events cancelled, pumpkin picking has been a big attraction this year.

Coonamessett’s animal care manager, Shawna Bush, said this is one of the busiest seasons they’ve had.

“In terms of the number of day passes we've sold, we've broken records about three weekends in a row,” she said.

Bush said the farm has hayrides, but groups are spaced six feet apart.

Many farms are not offering hayrides this year, in keeping with state guidelines that recommend against them with anyone outside your household.

Just down the road at Tony Andrews’ Farm, owner Geoffrey Andrews said it isn’t cost effective to run a hayride with one-quarter of the seats filled. And he canceled his fall special events, too.

“We’d see thousands of kids doing the bouncy house thing and the slides and all that, and the hayrides, and the haunted house, and so forth,” he said. “But this year’s totally changed.”

He said sales of pumpkins, though, as well as other produce, are up about 20 percent.

Back at Coonamessett Farm, Joe Shannon said trick-or-treating is a no-go for his kids this Halloween. He said one of the hardest things about the pandemic is keeping them out of school, and he doesn’t want to do anything that will make them stay out longer.

“We're trying to be really responsible about not doing anything ourselves to cause more spread of the virus,” he said. “So we think trick-or-treating is just an unnecessary risk — less gain than reward.”

Their family will celebrate with some backyard fun, pumpkins, and of course, costumes. Grady’s going to be a lion, and Maureen a bunny.

They’re hoping for some treats, too.

Jennette Barnes is a reporter and producer. Named a Master Reporter by the New England Society of News Editors, she brings more than 20 years of news experience to CAI.