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Tweaking traditions: Jacksonville pumpkin patch pressing on despite pandemic

Safety precautions will be in place to prevent spread of COVID-19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to keep up with fall traditions, but they’re coming with some changes for sanitation and social distancing.

One of the largest pumpkin patches in Jacksonville is set to open Saturday at Mandarin United Methodist Church.

They’re starting with 2,800 pumpkins – but that’s just the first four truckloads.

“The patch this year will have some great pumpkins,” said Conley Hobbie, or the Great Pumpkin, as he’s affectionately called.

Hobbie has been the patch coordinator since it started 32 years ago. But he knows some people were hesitant about opening their patch this year.

“Many pumpkin patches in the area have decided not to have a pumpkin patch, so Mandarin United Methodist Church is probably going to be one of the biggest pumpkin patches in Jacksonville this year,” Hobbie said.

In normal times, the only rule was “Don’t pick the pumpkin up by the stem.”

But now, because of coronavirus, other safety precautions have been put in place, including hand sanitizer stations and face mask requirements

Youth Ministry Director Paula Coker-Jones said they’re also asking people to bring their own water bottles.

“We are not providing water fountains or coolers,” Coker-Jones said. “And then we are also asking people to stay 6 feet apart, stay with your family. Social distance with everyone else.”

Coker-Jones said everyone is asked to bring a mask from home, but they will have disposable masks available for anyone who forgets theirs.

Volunteers may also ask people to wait in their cars if there’s a line so families don’t “squash” together.

Some other fall events happening this weekend in the Jacksonville area:

  • A modified version of the Clay County fair kicks off Friday night and lasts through Sunday.
  • 13th Floor Haunted House on Arlington Expressway will have shows every weekend through Nov. 7.
  • At the beach, there will be a fall “Art Market” at SeaWalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach on Saturday.
  • And in St. Johns County, this is the last weekend to shop EVER at the St. Augustine Flea Market, which is closing after 35 years.

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