A towering semi obstructed the view of the field behind Sea Cliff’s United Methodist Church. Inside the truck, about 3,000 pumpkins would soon be unloaded by volunteers for the congregation’s annual fall pumpkin patch, which officially opened earlier this week.
In its 15th year, the United Methodist pumpkin patch continues as a beloved tradition in Sea Cliff and the greater North Shore community. Every October, the church receives a literal truckload of pumpkins from a Navajo tribe in New Mexico to sell off to throes of autumn enthusiasts. The proceeds collected at the patch are shared between the Navajo Indians, who grew the gourds, and the church.
“A lot of different churches do this, but we feel special to help the Navajos,” said patch organizer Christina Volz, of Sea Cliff. “The pumpkin harvest is a big thing for them, and we love getting a really cool selection of pumpkins,” she said admiring the various shaped gourds that cluttered at her feet.
After their weeklong journey from the southwest, a team of volunteers from the parish, North Shore High School’s Key Club, the Boy Scouts and RADD Crossfit in Glen Cove unloaded the pumpkins at the patch on Friday. Using the assembly line method, volunteers moved the pumpkins one by one out of the truck bed and into a fleet of wheelbarrows. From there, volunteers moved the pumpkins up and down the gridlocked rows, placing them methodically throughout the field, creating a colorful mosaic of orange, white and green.
“It’s a great community effort,” Volz said. “This has been our best year of help.”
Volz assumed patch operations three years ago with fellow resident and parishioner Madhavi Neveroski. She remembers Volz jumping at the chance to continue the tradition, looking at Neveroski for help, and she obliged.
“My favorite part is having fellowship with our parishioners because you really get to know one another when you’re working out here,” Neveroski said. “The other part is providing our community with a family gathering situation.”
Throughout the month, residents flock to the church to pick pumpkins for their porch, take photos in the fall scene, catch up with neighbors and snack on seasonal treats like pumpkin soup from Still Partners and homemade pumpkin bread.
“People get insulted if we ask if they’ve been here before,” Neveroski said with a laugh. “They’ve been bringing their kids since they were little babies — they really love it.”
Volz said the atmosphere at the patch is reminiscent of a forgotten time. “It’s kind of like something you would see a long time ago,” she said. “It’s a beautiful thing to have and it brings such joy to our local community.”
The church also welcomes young students from local elementary schools, preschools and daycares to visit the patch on field trips. “They come here and they learn about the Navajo Indians, how they grow the pumpkins, what their traditions are,” Neveroski said. “It’s a culture within our country that a lot of people don’t know about, so it’s nice to give the children some history lessons.”
As they filled up the field with the plethora of pumpkins, Volz and Neveroski watched their children work together to perfect the patch, furthering the family feel of it all. “Our children take so much pride in coming here and telling their friends about it, and the kids are really excited about doing this,” Neveroski said. “It’s tough work but it’s worth it.”