Relleke Rots Pumpkin Dreams

Holly Williams, Staff Writer

The suffocating and endless clouds of dust that seemed like the 2020 rendition of the Dust Bowl should have been my first clue as to my experience at the Relleke pumpkin patch.

Recently I visited the attraction in Granite City with my best friend and his 9-year-old brother, hoping to find the “perfect pumpkin” to ruin when I try my hand at pumpkin carving. Upon arriving, the dirt parking lot overflowing with cars kicked up so much dust that windshield wipers on the medium setting barely gave enough visibility to drive, and the lack of rain preceding the time I decided to visit made matters worse.

After claiming a parking spot and trekking through the dust storm to get to the sparse grassy area, I realized that it was pumpkin weekend: food vendors and carnival games were everywhere.

Like many festivals, tickets are required to participate in any of the activities, and at a whopping $1 a ticket, the 20 tickets we bought was a blow to our scrawny teenage-wallets.

The blow to the entertainment budget would have been worth it if the activities like the corn maze, haunted house, and carnival games had any entertainment value: but they did not.

With a tremendous fee of three tickets per person the corn maze, which seemed more like a round-a-bout lasted all of 10 minutes. Almost half of our tickets were wasted, but we thought the haunted house would make up for it.

Unfortunately, the so-called haunted house was no better. With construction consisting of hay with a plywood wall or two here or there and workers who were dressed to startle, but chatted more than sacred, it was a disappointment. The construction and the execution was as amateur as a pumpkin farm could get. Neither the child I was with nor anyone within my vicinity seemed scared.

The carnival games lacked the same entertainment value as both the corn maze and haunted house. Half of the games did not work, and the workers who ran the booths made little effort to rectify the problems.

Although the lack of effort applied to the construction and the maintenance of the corn maze, haunted house, and carnival games was disappointing, the selection of pumpkins in the farm itself was the most unpleasant.

Dragging the cart with a crooked axle through bumpy “pathways” was a battle, but adding in the dusty air and bug infested field made the search miserable. You had to plan your location strategically within the patch when you knew that the tractor bringing pickers out to the edge of the farm, a ride costing three tickets per person, was rolling by. Yelling the word “tractor” inevitably meant going through the same process as you would when you yelled “earthquake”: cover your most important extremities, especially your eyes and nose, and hide.

Tramping through the patch to find pumpkin after pumpkin rotted or majorly disfigured was a disheartening experience. There were very few pumpkins that were in good enough condition to pick from.

Walking back into the dust bowl to find the car completely covered in filth, I left the pumpkin patch itchy, frustrated and without a pumpkin to carve. Ultimately, I went to Walmart to buy one in a better condition than any of the pumpkins I found at the Relleke patch.

Pumpkins at the supercenter were cheaper than at Relleke as well. Small pie pumpkins, weighing a pound at the pumpkin patch, were $3, and the roughly 11 pound pumpkin I picked from Walmart was the same price.

Rummaging through a pumpkin patch and searching for the “perfect pumpkin” is a drastically different experience than going to a store and buying one from the bin. But next year, I will take my business to another pumpkin patch without the suffocating dust and disappointing festival and pumpkin selection.