Celebrate the season at Papa's Pumpkin Patch
It’s one of the Travel Channel’s Top 10 U.S. Pumpkin Patches, and it grows in size and popularity year aft er year. Nestled in Bismarck’s backyard, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is a one-of-a-kind celebration of – you guessed it – pumpkins.
Celebrating it’s 36th year, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch started as a happy accident.
"In 1983, a friend of my dad asked if I would raise pumpkins for him. He planned to give them away in the Oktoberfest parade. So, I raised fi ve acres of pumpkins," says Dave Pearce, who co-founded Papa’s Pumpkin Patch with his mother Suzie. "Th at was the year they changed Oktoberfest to Folkfest and moved it 30 days earlier. So, I had fi ve acres of green as grass pumpkins when he wanted to give them away."
When the pumpkins were ready, Pearce asked teachers to bring their students out to choose a pumpkin, and Papa’s Pumpkin Patch was born. The next year, he raised fi ve rows instead of fi ve acres.
"That year, we hauled them in from the fi eld and put them in the yard because it rained. And, it looked so pretty," says Pearce. "It started out as being pumpkins. Th en, came photo opps. And then, play places."
Decades later, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is still all about pumpkins. This year, the patch will go through about 40,000 pumpkins and other squash – that’s about half a million pounds! "Every pumpkin becomes the perfect pumpkin for one child. Sometimes the smallest child wants the biggest pumpkin, and the biggest child just wants one he or she can carry," says Pearce with a smile.
In addition to pumpkins, Papa’s Pumpkin Patch offers everything from a pumpkin cannon to pony rides to ziplines. And this year, the pumpkin patch has a fresh crop of activities. Kids of all ages can play on the new Capital Adventure Park, built by lineworkers from Capital Electric Cooperative. There’s a new mini-golf course and a human foosball game. The zip line has a new design. And, those who visit on Thursday evenings and Sunday afternoons will be greeted by live music on a new stage. With so many things to do, it’s hard to pick a favorite.
"[I like] seeing all the cool, different designs on the pumpkins and the tractors and the rides – mostly the zipline. They got a new little play area, and I’m gonna want to check that out," says Elliot Hertz-Barnett, 7, Bismarck.
Seven-year-old Tommy Carlson, Bismarck, comes to Papa’s Pumpkin Patch every year. Last fall, he celebrated his birthday at the patch. "I like the cool abandoned tractors. I like getting pumpkins and carving them. I like the cool rides and trails and play things."
And, let’s not forget the pumpkin cookies. "They’re delicious," says Hertz-Barnett.
It’s clear to see that Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is a fall favorite for many. On an average weekend, the patch welcomes 10,000 visitors of all ages, and most of them leave with a smile. For Pearce, it’s the ultimate reward.
"We all love that warm, fuzzy moment when joy happens," says Pearce. "It’s when you see the perfect photo or a child with a smile as big as life running with a pumpkin and screaming with glee. That’s why this place works. It’s fun to be a part of."
If you want to join in on the fun, carve out some time this fall and visit the spot the Travel Channel calls, "the place to be." In case you haven’t heard – here’s the scoop – Papa’s Pumpkin Patch is the cream of the crop.
Papa’s Pumpkin Patch’s 2018 season runs from Sept. 9 to Oct. 20. The patch is open from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily. For more information, visit papaspumpkinpatch.com