Durham County

PUMPKIN PICKIN’: Museum’s Pumpkin Patch Express a holiday tradition

Rachael Rileyl rriley@heraldsun.com

DURHAM --

For nine-year-old Sofia Cutlip,picking out a pumpkin is almost a science.

“You have to think to find the right size and if it seems moldy,” Sofia said. “ I don’t like moldy.”

Along with her 3-year-old sister Alex, the Durham girl found her perfect pumpkin Sunday at the Museum of Life and Science’s annual Pumpkin Patch Express.

As both sisters’ trudged through a trough of more than 5,000 pounds of corn kernels, Sofia said she already had plans for her pumpkin.

“I’m going to carve a fox on it, but on it but I’m not going to carve a face,” she said. “I’m going to carve a tail, the paws, the ears and maybe the nose and eyes, and also put some leaves around where the fox is going to be.”

The girls’ parents, Rita and Mike Cutlip, are museum members and were drawn to the train ride and weather.

“There aren’t many places that are age appropriate for kids six years apart,” Rita Cutlip said. “So this is one of those things where there’s something for everyone.”

Hurricane Matthew slightly derailed the Pumpkin Patch Express, now in its fifth year, but the annual event is now chugging along, said Ro Rode, manager for fundraising events at museum.

“We actually did cancel our first weekend because of Hurricane Matthew,” Rode said. “So last weekend was our first weekend, and we’ve been sold out the last two weekends.”

Saturday, Oct. 29 is sold out, too, but tickets remained available Sunday for Sunday, Oct. 30 and Halloween itself, Monday, Oct. 31.

“All the proceeds go back to the museum, feeding our animals, keeping our lights on, all those sorts of wonderful things,” Rode said.

Once pumpkin pickers board the train, the kid-sized pumpkins await, she said.

Pumpkins usually come from a Zebulon-based local farmer at Stone Ridge Farm Market. The museum buys seeds in March, and the farmer plants 40 acres for the event.

“Hurricane Matthew messed that up a little bit -- actually all 40 acres of our pumpkins floated away underwater,” Rode said.

Still, the farmer came through, finding farmers in Virginia and Tennessee for this year’s patch.

“When a hurricane doesn’t block it, we love to have North Carolina produce,” Rode said. “We really like having and supporting a local farm.”

Once a perfect pumpkin is picked, Rode said children can opt to safely decorate them with crafts, or families can venture through a maze, play games and take photos while waiting for the train back.

Boarding the train Sunday was the Tiegreen family, of Chapel Hill -- parents Sara and Josh, six-year-old Fiona and three-year-old Simon.

“It’s an annual tradition for us,” Sara Tiegreen said.

The Goodridge family of Durham are museum members who make the event a tradition, too.

“The kids are real excited to ride the train and make crafts,” said Candice Goodridge, as children Finn, 6, and Ava, 3, placed stickers on their pumpkins. “We’ve come I think every year since (Finn) was 2.”

Rode described it as all-around “fall, family fun.”

Tickets may be purchased at the museum, at 433 W. Murray Ave. or online at lifeandscience.org.

The cost is $12 per person,plus museum admission for non-members, and no cost for children younger than 2.

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