We are often asked, “Just how many hand-painted signs do you have at the Patch?”, and the answer is somewhere between hundreds and too many to count. After painting signs for The Great Pumpkin Patch over the last 25 years, my best guess is a couple thousand, at least. I can count over one hundred signs right now as I look out our pumpkin patch office on a gloriously calm, sun-bathed morning.
We have two round metal grain bins, 2,000 and 6,000 bushel size, that we have converted to house most of our signs in the off season. In one of those bins we have probably a thousand blank pieces of sign board ready to receive the next TGPP sign, whether it’s one of our 300 (+) cucurbit varieties, a directional sign pointing our visitors to the many corners of the Patch, or a road sign bringing in our diverse crowd over the seven week season. In our 100 year old barn, we have built in a second level to accommodate our seed saving and sign painting. This is where the magic starts.
My August, September, and October are filled with hours of repairing and repainting existing signs, and taking requests from our staff for new ones. I’m writing this blog on October 26th, with only a week left in the season, and my list of new signs continues to grow. I probably have forty varietal signs to paint by next year, twenty directional signs, and maybe another dozen ‘new idea’ signs, including one or two more of our large, popular ‘head-pokey-through’ and animal photo opportunities, all hand painted.
My older brother Kit and my mom are the original sign painters, and we still have some of their 25 year old signs in the rotation. Kit’s signature signs often include snippets of languages he has picked up on his world travels. Other older signs have found their way high up on the walls of our TGPP Museum, with more being officially ‘retired’ after each season. Even my twin brother Mac, the general manager and expert of all things cucurbit, has been known to paint a sign or two as needed. And then you have the staff that gets in on the painting over the summer- they often help with cranking out many of our hand-painted logo signs you see all over the Patch.
I need to do a ‘shout out’ to my sign painting partner of many years, Ed, who recently moved to Florida. Many a sign was painted in the ‘sign loft’ over the years, after hours, listening to the Cubbies. Our after hours sign painting parties are approaching legendary status, and it’s one of the main reasons you get some pretty funky looking and sounding signs on occasion. You may even see a sign or two from our sixth generation kids on the farm, advising you to not eat the pumpkins until you get them home, or the classic, “I ‘heart’ Squash.” Our patriarch, Bruce, has been famous for his own style of sign painting, which often includes a piece of cardboard, extra thick magic marker, and duct tape.
For sign boards, we scavenge and save. We are big on repurposing around here, so we’ve made signs on old pallets, salvaged barn boards, decades old fence board, shake shingles, and basically any surface we find cool-looking and sign-worthy. I just spent about two weeks this July cleaning out our ‘wood shed’ in our South Crib – it had a collection of wooden planks, old wooden doors, gates, fence board, and even old bridge timbers that had been collected by us, by my dad over the last 45 years, and by my grandpa dating back to the days he lived and farmed here in the 1940’s and ‘50’s. Most of those wooden treasures will be repurposed into animal shelters, new displays, and of course, signs, signs, and more signs.
Our passion for diversity and ‘things unusual’ shines through not only with our cucurbit varieties but in our size, shape, language, color, and placement of our thousands of signs created here at the Patch. It is our attention to detail that I believe sets us apart from your standard, commercialized pumpkin patches. If you have any unique ideas for signs – just send them our way- you never know what you may find on a sign board next Fall!