CRESTVIEW — Wesley Academy's pre-kindergarten class was the first group of students to visit a pumpkin patch at St. Mark United Methodist Church on Wednesday.
This is the third year that the church — which gets its pumpkins from New Mexico — has presented a pumpkin patch, according to student minister April Hight.
The event annually attracts North Okaloosa schools.
"We are expecting to have several area schools, including Antioch and Northwood (Elementary), visit in the next couple of weeks," Hight said. "We are expecting to have around 750 students."
Children ages 2 through 4, from Wesley Academy's pre-kindergarten class, were the first to visit the patch. The academy, part of St. Mark church, started the morning in the arts and crafts room coloring paper-scarecrow puppets. Kids also played games outside. The activities included a kid's-size bowling area and a large metal container for little ones to throw balls into.
After the games, students gathered under a large oak tree near the church and listened to story time and live music from church members Eli Willis and Miranda Gomez. Gomez fittingly read Liz Curtis Higgs’ book, "The Pumpkin Patch Parable." Willis played his guitar and encouraged kids to sing along to the classic children's songs "Old MacDonald " and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.”
Students also decorated a cookie and picked out a small pumpkin with their parents’ help.
The pumpkins are for sale; prices vary depending on their size. Smaller pumpkins cost $1 and larger pumpkins can cost up to $30. Proceeds will go to the church's student ministries and fund mission projects in the community, according to Hight.
The patch is open 1-7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today. The final week of October (Oct. 22 through 30), the hours will change to 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday. On Wednesday, Oct. 31, the patch will be open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
"On the last two Saturdays of the month, we will have the children's activities along with concession stands for the public," Hight said.
She also said that on those two Saturdays, the church will show family-friendly movies and light up the church fire pit so people can roast marshmallows or make chocolate s'mores.
From 5-7 p.m. Oct. 31, the church will present trunk or treat, during which vehicles will gather in the parking lot and pass out candy to children. Owners are encouraged to decorate their trunks or tailgates.