Exploring the pumpkin patch
Pumpkin patches and corn mazes are as synonymous with fall as Halloween and Thanksgiving.
For Kristi and Brandon Unruh, owners of Papa’s Pumpkin Patch between Goessel and Newton, it’s about offering a family-friendly experience that is cost-effective.
“We have five kids, and to go anywhere, even to get into one, was expensive for us,” Kristi said. “Every kid wanted to bring their own pumpkin home and how much can we do?”
The Unruhs pulled inspiration from the Gospel of Matthew, 19:14, where Jesus says to bring the children to him unhindered, since Heaven belongs to them. In the case of the Unruhs, removing obstacles means ensuring money isn’t a problem.
“We’re not hindering anybody from coming here,” Brandon Unruh said. “If you don’t have money, if you can get here, you’re welcome to come and enjoy a lot of the stuff.”
The family has been running the seasonal business for 13 years. Instead of paying admission, visitors pay when they leave, a dollar or two per attraction, depending on the ones they visited.
Open primarily on weekends or during the week by appointment, the limited availability is due to their busy schedules, Kristi said.
“We do work full-time jobs, Monday through Friday, and this is what we can dedicate to it,” she said. “It’s an undertaking to set up the farm year for this. We’ve been open earlier some years and people weren’t in the mood for pumpkins.”
For the few weeks it is open, the patch sees heavy traffic.
“Last year on the weekends, we had between 10,000 and 12,000 people, through the six weekends we were open,” Brandon Unruh said.
Jenny Bristol and her father Greg Garver came from Newton and Wichita with their family of 10.
“We look forward to it every year,” Bristol said. “We wait for opening weekend and we’re here. We have been since our kids were little, and they’re 9 years old now.”
With so many relatives, the price makes a big difference, Garver said.
“It really helps with the free admission,” he said. “We spend just as much money, but on the fun activities.”
Even if the family did not live so close, it would be worth the trip, Garver said.
“My daughter lives close to Andover,” he said. “They drive down and bring their kids every year.”
According to Brandon, the pumpkin patch is easily the most popular attraction.
“There are about eight acres of pumpkins back there, just in our main patch,” he said. “You go out and find what you want.”
The reason they can afford such a large undertaking is all the repurposed materials.
“Lots of our stuff is made from old pallets,” he said. “It’s not fancy, but it works for us and our clientele.”
Brandon’s favorite aspect is the maze, which he and a friend design every year.
“There’s one way in and one way out,” he said. “Our goal is to try and get you lost out there and for you to figure it out. Instead of something that looks good from the sky, we want something that’s a challenge.”