Edgar County, Ill. —
A late frost and long drought might have roasted the area’s corn crop, but pumpkins seem to be in strong supply.
The color orange filled the farmgrounds between West Terre Haute and Paris, Ill., Sunday afternoon, as hundreds of visitors bounced about Pumpkin Works. Inside the Old Farm House Shop, fudge and ice cream were on sale as parents scheduled hay rides with Paul and Sherry Staley.
Sherry said the 20th season of Pumpkin Works seems to be off to a good start despite the summer’s drought. Open daily through Oct. 31, the 260-acre property features mazes in the barns as well as corn fields.
“The corn field is pretty disastrous,” she said laughing, observing the summer’s crippling months without rain kept the stalks from reaching a normal height of 12 feet. “But people are still enjoying it.”
More than 30,000 visitors annually trek through the property on which Paul was raised, walking wood trails and buying pumpkins and gourds. This year, Paul said the 33 acres devoted to pumpkins have done exceedingly well.
“It’s pretty good. It’s as good if not better,” he said of the crop. “They’re turning ripe just as fast as we’re selling them.”
Negligible rain fell between May and July. Paul said he normally plants pumpkins in the middle of June, but this year put them in the sun-baked ground July 3. The pumpkins were 54 days old before a substantive rain came, he chuckled.
But the rain did come — just in time. A normal harvest would yield about 1,000 pumpkins to the acre, about 10 pounds each. This year, Paul said, many of the pumpkins will be closer to 20 pounds.
Trudy Arrasmith served ice cream and drinks at one of the outside vending tents. An elementary school nurse during the week, she comes out on the weekends to help the Staleys.
“The woods. The nature. The kids,” she said, explaining her happiness at the farm. “When the kids see Nurse Trudy out here, they’re surprised.”
The farm is a family-friendly affair, as it was from the start. Paul said his father bought the ground in 1936 and used it to raise hogs. His cousin now owns the original Staley homeplace just down the road, and while the hogs have been long gone, the sense of family still remains.
Pixie Ullrich, Paul’s sister, returned to the homeplace from Colorado this weekend to help out.
“I have fun,” she said, remarking at how the farm has changed since she was a girl. “It’s been a work in progress for the last 20 years.”
Recalling how their father, then in his 90s, used to ride his lawnmower over to help with the festivities, she said it’s been a family project from the first.
“Oh, my dad loved the Pumpkin Works,” she smiled.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Pumpkin Works
Address: 21788 E. Terre Haute Road., Paris, Ill.
Hours: Monday-Thursday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Friday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. (Central Time)