Halloween 2020 will be different from any other Halloween we’ve experienced before. Come Oct. 31, streets once filled with candy-seeking children dressed up as ghosts and superheroes will be empty. While trick-or-treating is highly discouraged, there are still ways to have safe fall fun while supporting local businesses.
“Focusing on decorations, limiting activities to the people you live with, and virtual costume parties or contests will help keep our communities safe this season, especially our children,” read a joint statement from Bay Area Health Officers. “Trick-or-treating is a high-risk activity, because it increases contact with people outside of your household who may not be as careful about COVID-19 prevention.”
Local health officials recommend that Santa Cruz residents participate in lower risk activities that provide Halloween fun, while still protecting community health.
One low-risk activity is visiting a local pumpkin patch, while wearing a mask and maintaining social distance requirements. Two local businesses, the Post Street Farm and The Great Pumpkin Patch, are popular choices in Santa Cruz.
Scattered throughout the Post Street Farm are ornaments and props to keep on theme with the spooky season: toy skeletons, a growling animatronic werewolf, and a mystical dead teller, who, with the push of a button, will answer any question you seek.
Walking in, it’s a sea of orange. Pumpkins range in size from a baseball to a massive boulder, with shapes as unusual as a big acorn or a fat mushroom. Off to the sides of the patch are multicolored pumpkins that stray away from the typical orange.
“We got white ones, there’s green ones, striped ones, there’s all kinds of squash and pumpkins,” said Matt Hodel, owner of the Post Street Farm. “[..] We used to grow giant pumpkins here, and then they kinda evolved into a pumpkin patch.”
Beyond the initial patch of pumpkins and through a flower field are even more pumpkins. Here, visitors stage photoshoots in front of a 15-foot-tall inflatable pumpkin man or a pyramid of hay bales.
The Post Street Farm isn’t the only spot for pumpkin fun in Santa Cruz.
From January to August, 2125 Soquel Drive is just an empty lot. But as fall approaches, the land is transformed into The Great Pumpkin Patch.
“There’s no entry fee, and [customers] come in and get to experience just the field of pumpkin patch,” said Kevin Cuny, owner of The Great Pumpkin Patch. “That could be anything from wanting to just wander around the patch, to play on the hay floor, to sit down and have a time with their kids.”
Cuny likens it to a pumpkin themed amusement park. They provide concessions, while also featuring a petting zoo, paddle boats, hay and cow train rides, and a massive pumpkin slingshot to shoot at targets in their field.
“What sets our pumpkin patches apart is we try and keep it farmlike for you. So they’ll never be scary. There’s no ghosts. There’s no goblins. There’s no scary things for little kids. We don’t believe in bounce houses because it’s not our theme. It’s not what we want,” Cuny said. “I want the kids to, if they jump around, jump around bales of hay and have fun with that. A little bit more natural, and I think that’s probably appreciated in Santa Cruz.”
Since the majority of business comes in the last two and a half weeks of October as the excitement for fall and Halloween starts to bubble, Cuny starts placing orders for pumpkins in early September. Based on demand, they’ll continue to order through the end of the season.
Scattered throughout the patch are reminders of COVID-19. Baseball plates stuck in the dirt indicate the recommended social distancing of six feet, or as they like to say at The Great Pumpkin Patch, “one cow length apart.”
Cuny’s pumpkin patch has seen a reduction in business because of COVID, so it hasn’t been as busy as years past, but the economic falloff hasn’t been as great as they were initially worried about. Cuny isn’t worried about not breaking even this year.
“People seem to want to come out and [people who] haven’t experienced pumpkin patches still want to carve pumpkins, so we’re fortunate for that,” said Cuny.
While Cuny notes that Halloween will be different without trick-or-treating, he still wants to make it known that pumpkin patches are a safe alternative for seasonal fun.
“It’s not about the size of the pumpkin, it’s really about that entire experience,” Cuny said. “[…] That’s a memory, and that’s really what we think that’s what we have to sell.”