Pumpkin patches return to provide fun during the fall season


Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography

Bandy’s gift shop sits at the entrance of Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch Oct. 13, 2021 in Johnston City, Ill. Co-owner of Bandys Pumpkin Patch, Kelly Bandy, said, “We start this business in February, even though we don’t open until September. There’s so much that goes into it that people don’t know about.”

Pumpkin patches in the Southern Illinois area have reopened for the 2021 fall season, providing people with an affordable way to partake in fall activities such as picking out pumpkins, sipping on apple cider and going on hayrides.Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the call for social distancing, this yearly tradition was largely put on hold in the fall season of 2020. 

Kelly Bandy, owner of Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch in Johnston City, Ill.,  recently took over running the business with her husband, Troy Bandy. Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch has been in business for 35 years. This anniversary follows a year of closing down the patch due to the pandemic. 

“There’s so much that goes into it that people don’t know about. The ordering of the seeds, and ground prep, the fertilization, all that stuff,” Kelly Bandy said. “We had to make the call before we put all the overhead into the business, and that was back in March of 2020.”


Kelly Bandy said she wasn’t sure how people would respond to coming to the patch this year after dealing with the pandemic, and to her surprise Bandy’s received a record turnout of guests. People that had visited Bandy’s before expressed to her how thrilled they were to be back, Kelly Bandy said, and her family also shared the joy in returning to their patch.

“We’ve only closed one day in 35 years. So to close for an entire season was a big deal for us, and we missed it,” Kelly Bandy said. “I mean this is something our family looks forward to every year.” 

The last time Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch had to close there’d been a hurricane, pumpkins were floating in the yard. Kelly Bandy said people still showed up that day with their rainboots.

Although they were upset to close during the 2020 season, Kelly Bandy said that they felt the decision was necessary and used the time as an opportunity to renovate their patch and “pass the torch down to the next generation.”

 “My husband and I just officially took it over this year, the very beginning of this year,after helping manage it the last couple of years,” said Kelly Bandy. “We passed it down, now, to the next generation… and we have a son who will take it over when we’re done with it.”

Children play in the play area at Bandys Pumpkin Patch Oct. 13, 2021 in Johnston City, Ill. In 2020, the pumpkin patch was closed due Covid-19. Co-owner of Bandys Pumpkin Patch, Kelly Bandy, said, “We wanted to help keep the community safe […] Even though we’re 90% outside, we can’t socially distance children on a hay ride very easily, especially when you have 75 of them in one class who want to go all at once. The little kids don’t grasp the concept of social distance in a play barn.” (Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography)
Pumpkins sit out for sale at Bandys Pumpkin Patch Oct. 13, 2021 in Johnston City, Ill. “We’ve had some pretty record turnout. We weren’t sure how the community was going to respond. If they were still going to be kind of leery to come out, or if they were just ready to get out and apparently they’re ready to get out,” said Kelly Bandy, co-owner of Bandys Pumpkin Patch. (Dominique Martinez-Powell | @dmartinez_powell.photography)

The Bandy’s underwent upgrades to the infrastructure and play areas, and added ways to provide handicap accessibility to their visitors. Bandy’s now provides an ADA compliant ramp as well as side doors on the hayrides for people who use wheelchairs. 

Kelly Bandy said they had been faced with an issue in the past and knew they had to fix it. Being able to provide ways for all people to participate at their patch was very important to them and went behind some of their additions for the past year. 


Another addition to the patch this year is a separate play area for people with Autism to ensure that they are provided a way to meet their sensory needs, and able to avoid overstimulation. Signs were also placed throughout Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch to remind visitors that all people are welcome regardless of their race, religion, gender, or political affiliation as long as they are kind to one another.

Another handicap accessible pumpkin patch is Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch in Mt. Vernon,Ill. Marlow’s is run by the Marlow family, and has been in business since 1998. Mary Marlow-Goins works at her family’s pumpkin patch, which her brother, Timothy Marlow, now formally owns. 

In addition to handicap accessibility, Timothy Marlow acknowledges the wealth gap in the area, and strives every year to create new activities with the intention of providing people of all income levels with the opportunity to participate at the patch. 

“Our goal is to be affordable,” Marlow-Goins said. “We do not charge admission, we just charge based on activities so anyone can come here and play.” 

Marlow-Goins said she wants people to keep in mind that they are still a privately-owned and family-run business, so they try to meet all needs to the best of their abilities. 

Marlow-Goins said the pumpkin patch serves as a way to honor her family. Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch originated on her grandfather’s farm, and has been passed down from her grandfather, to her father, and now to her brother. Nearly the entire family works together each year to run the pumpkin patch for the few weeks that it is open. 

“My dad works nearly all year round painting. He’s retired, and has been retired for quite some time, and he paints and does decorations for our hayride, and just enjoys working on it throughout the year,” Marlow-Goins said.

Marlow’s Pumpkin Patch was open during the 2020 fall season with limited activities in order to meet the guidelines of the pandemic. Marlow-Goins said, although there were limits placed on activities, people still expressed how appreciative they were to have it partially opened in order to get out of the house after time spent quarantining.

Breezy Hill Farm in Benton, Illinois is another pumpkin patch that was open during the 2020 fall season. Jamee Shelton, along with her husband, is the owner of Breezy Hill Farm and has been in business for 16 years. Shelton said  other than ensuring they were consistently keeping up with guidelines, she and her husband weren’t faced with too many difficulties during the 2020 season. 

In response to the pandemic, Breezy Hill Farm has installed more hand washing stations and provides hand sanitizer around the farm. They also accommodate for social distancing on hayrides, if need be. Shelton said those who visited the patch were “more than eager to be out,” and  it gave visitors  a sense of normalcy that they needed following such an unusual year.

“This year it’s been well, as well. I think people are over the pandemic. They’re ready to move on, and get out,” Shelton said. 

Along with the hygienic additions, a new activity was installed called the “Hoop Shoot Wagon,” which is a basketball activity that involves a gravity wagon. Shelton said they strive to add a new activity each season, and are more than happy to provide a way to bring families together year after year. 

“I’ve seen people have kids, and then their kids are having the kids and bringing them out,” Shelton said, “it’s kind of interesting.”

Staff reporter Kiersten Owens can be reached at [email protected]. To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.