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Pumpkins litter playground

Students factor size, shininess and stem quality to pick their favorite gourds at school on Friday.

October 18, 2008|By Anahid Yahjian

“What is this called?” McKinley Elementary School fifth-grader Hugo Pérez de la Torre asked, pointing to the mid-sized pumpkin in his hand.

“It’s his first pumpkin,” explained classmate Eric Arias, translating from Hugo’s Spanish. Hugo moved to the United States less than six months ago from Cuba; the closest thing to Halloween that he knows is the Mexican Day of the Dead, traditionally celebrated in November.

Hugo and Eric’s classmates — along with the rest of the students at McKinley — were treated to pumpkins of their choice as part of the PTA’s seventh annual pumpkin patch in the school’s playground Friday. Each year, the PTA dads purchase and deliver more than 500 pumpkins, which are then displayed in the temporary patch for the students to peruse, organizer Stephanie McCorkle said.

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“What’s really fun is to watch how much thought goes into choosing a pumpkin,” PTA president Suzanne Weerts said.

She described how some students need longer than the time allotted to make their selection; they pay attention to size, color and even the condition of the stem. Sometimes it comes down to playing “eenie- meenie” to help an indecisive pumpkin picker make a decision, Weerts said.

“I want a bright one that doesn’t have any dirt on it,” said first-grader Victoria Valenzuela, adding that roundness and shininess were also key features she was looking for.

“They are so concentrated,” said PTA mom Roxanna Cousens-Acedo, who has been photographing the event since it was started seven years ago.

“Their expressions are what I like to capture.”

Joined by fellow PTA mom Suzy Shearer this year, Cousens-Acedo took pictures of each class during their visit to the patch; she has made a tradition of giving a copy to each teacher and creating a CD of all the photos from the day for the school to use.

The yearly arrival of the pumpkin patch is cause for excitement among the students and parents.

“I always take this day off,” Cousens-Acedo said.

She sees herself continuing to photograph the event even when her own children move on from McKinley; it would be tough to stay away, considering the schoolyard is in view from her own home.

“I wouldn’t miss it,” she said.


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