- Associated Press - Sunday, October 26, 2014

SOLDOTNA, Alaska (AP) - By 6 p.m. Wednesday, the makeshift pumpkin patch was cleared and hundreds of Kalifornsky Beach Elementary students flooded the playground, trying to knock over tin milk bottles or lined up for photos with their families. Only an hour earlier 200 plump, bright orange pumpkins had rested side-by-side in the recreation fields behind the school at the start of “Pumpkins in the Playground.”

Parent Teacher Association secretary Annie Massey headed the event, with the PTA and the school staff ready to assist. A Washington state transplant, she wanted to revive an event she enjoyed with her family every autumn.

“In Washington we go to pumpkin patches in the fall,” Massey said. “It is my second fall up here and I was missing it.”

So Massey brought the tradition to the school. Everyone was completely on board, she said. The event took 50 volunteers to pull off, Massey said.

Families brought spooky-themed snacks, Save-U-More donated free coffee, and Wal-Mart sold the school the piles of pumpkins at wholesale price, with an additional $100 discount, she said. Strained under the weight of a bloated jack-o’-lantern-to-be, K-Beach Caribou third grader Grace Richmond said she brought her entire family to the event, including four siblings.

“It’s hard to carry,” Richmond said. “I’m going to carve it, but I don’t know how yet.”

A line of parents wrangling their children to stay nearby stretched along the wall of the school, all waiting patiently to set up on bails of hay next to an oversized scarecrow for photographs. The line lasted two straight hours, Massey said.

Principal Nate Crabtree attended the event wearing gloves and a hat with earflaps. He smiled and said the school lucked out and it was perfectly dry fall weather that evening.

He said he is in full support of the event returning next year. The school might just need to purchase more pumpkins, he said. Oscar Marcou, 4, a future K-Beach Caribou came with his mother Darcy Marcou a teacher at the school.

“We have seen a lot of people we know,” Darcy Marcou said. “It is a great way to involve the families in a safe environment.”

As Darcy Marcou was helping her son decide if he wanted get in line to throw bean bags at the milk bottles, Ethan Takt, 6, did a nose dive into the box full of prizes placed beside the games. Takt, 6, came with his mother and sister and said he was having a great time. His favorite game was the ring toss. Massey said she hopes to keep the event going at the school for a long time.

“I think it’s a great accomplishment for our community school that the students and volunteers all came together for the school and teachers,” Massey said. “This was a huge success for our first year planning this event.”

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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