Storytime: The Horrors of Going to a Pumpkin Patch RN

Fall is finally starting to make an appearance: The weather is finally starting to cool, we can wear sweaters outside without dying in the heat, and it’s time for a few autumn traditions.

I grew up in Tennessee, and when I was little, autumn always began whenever I went to a local 30-acre farm that had an annual fall festival with hay-rides, corn mazes and a pumpkin patch. As I got older, my fall traditions started to change, but some stuck around. One that has cemented its place in my fall bucket list is visiting a pumpkin patch.

Each time I went to the pumpkin patch, I remember having fun toting around the little wagon and running up to my friends or parents, ready to show off which pumpkins I chose to decorate my front porch with. As I look back on my childhood, some of my fondest memories happened at a pumpkin patch.

In 2020, I wanted to continue making memories during one of my most favorite times of the year, but it didn’t turn out how I planned, and here’s why.

Storytime: I tried going to a pumpkin patch this year, and it was a nightmare.

Even though I stayed home in Tennessee for the fall semester, I still wanted to try to make the most of it. A few weeks ago, I wanted to maintain my fall tradition of visiting a pumpkin patch with my friends because 2020 was no exception, even if this entire year has been a mess. Because of the pandemic, we took extra precautions to prepare for our pumpkin patch adventure. That day, we planned to go to the patch earlier, wore masks with the intent to only take them off for a photo or two if it was appropriate, and I made sure to carry numerous bottles of hand sanitizer in my bag. One of my friends even brought sheets so we could have a ghost photoshoot! It's safe to say that we were ready for a fun and memorable (while still safe!) day. 

As soon as we pulled onto the farm’s property, we were horrified, not by the pumpkin patch, which was filled with beautiful pumpkins, but by the humungous crowd of about one hundred or so people, young and old, roaming around it without a mask. It looked just like any other year. It was like COVID-19 didn’t exist. 

When we saw that, all of our hearts dropped. We all knew that we had to put our pumpkin patch excursion on hold.

A few days prior, my hometown decided to terminate the mask mandate, which means masks are no longer required. The same goes for Tennessee as a whole. We expected there to be a few people not wearing masks, but we thought we’d still be able to hang out at the pumpkin patch and feel safe. However, the crowd of people disregarding social distancing without masks was shocking.

As a result, we stayed in the car in the farm’s parking lot to figure out where we should go from there because we did not want to risk our safety and the safety of those around us just because we wanted to have a good time. Instead, we turned around and said goodbye to the pumpkin patch.

However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t have fun that day. Rather than exploring a pumpkin patch on a quest to find the best pumpkin and running around doing the ghost photo challenge, we opted to do it in my friend’s backyard. Even though we didn’t have the pumpkin props we dreamed of, we still had our spooky ghost photoshoot and captured the perfect pictures. Not to brag, but I think they look like they could be a music album cover-- they’re that good.

Even though I was unable to form new memories at the pumpkin patch, I will forever cherish the fun that I had with my friends that day.

I know that my friends and I are not the only ones who have probably experienced this when trying to have fall fun, so here are a few suggestions on some safer alternatives to your favorite autumn activities: 

  1. 1. If you do decide to go to a pumpkin patch, corn maze, etc., try to go as soon as the place opens or during hours on a weekday.

    Even though going to the pumpkin patch on a Saturday afternoon just hits different, it’s also the peak time that most people go. Instead, in between Zoom classes or as a study break, head out to the pumpkin patch with your friends as way to de-stress! It’ll still be lots of fun, and the fall vibes will still be there, I promise.

  2. 2. Think about going to a larger pumpkin patch

    At least here in Tennessee, there are a fair number of farms that I can drive to that have a pumpkin patch. Before heading out, research the local farms in your area and look at the acreage. Even if there will be a crowd, they’ll most likely be more dispersed if the property is bigger, which will allow for better social distancing.

  3. 3. Rather than picking your pumpkins at the patch, try a grocery store

    Yes, I know that this option doesn’t seem as fun as going to the actual patch, but if you go with friends, the experience will still be unforgettable. Instead of riding around in wagons to pick up pumpkins, opt for shopping carts and scour the enormous boxes of pumpkins at stores like Kroger, Aldi’s or Sam’s.

  4. 4. Instead of taking a trip to the pumpkin patch, have a cozy movie night

    If you’re trying to avoid crowds at all costs, this is a perfect alternative. With a few friends, cozy sweaters or pajamas, apple cider and some pumpkin-flavored cookies, this would be a great night in! A fall movie favorite of mine that I will stand by until the end of time is the "Harry Potter" series. If "Harry Potter" isn’t your taste, here are some other movie suggestions!

  5. 5. If you want to have a ghost photoshoot, opt for some creative locations

    Even though the pumpkin patch is an ideal place for a fall photoshoot, especially with the current ghost photo trend, there are still other fun and unexpected locations that’ll give you the perfect fall vibes! Instead of the pumpkin patch, try experimenting with places around your house, dorm or apartment and use props for a fun photoshoot that you’ll remember for years to come.

Even though our fall traditions look a little bit different this year because of COVID-19, we can still make fun memories and create new traditions. If you are going out and experiencing some fall activities, remember to wear your mask, and don’t forget to carry some hand sanitizer!

Just because we want to have a little bit of fun does not mean we have to potentially compromise our health and the health of those around us.