An oasis of orange in St. James

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2011

By David Vitrano


GRAMERCY – Halloween brings to mind many things — black cats, trick-or-treating and jack-o-lanterns, to name a few, and everyone knows the key to having a great jack-o-lantern is picking the perfect pumpkin.

One place to find the perfect pumpkin is surely the St. James Parish Pumpkin Patch, sponsored by the Lutcher/ Gramercy Lions Club and held at the St. James Welcome Center on Airline Highway in Gramercy. The patch, now in its third year, will remain open through Monday, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Today, the patch will host a 5K run over the Veterans Memorial Bridge as well as a one-mile fun run. The one-mile run will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the 5K will begin at 9:15 a.m. The entry fee is $20, and all registrants are eligible to receive a T-shirt.

According to “Chairman of the Pumpkin Patch” Pete Matherne, the run was inspired by the popular bridge run hosted by the United Way of St. Charles Parish. The money collected will be divided between the Lions Club, which contributes to numerous children’s charities and the St. James Parish Sheriff’s Office, which will donate its share to Louisiana Special Olympics.

Matherne said the popularity of the pumpkin patch has grown each year, and this year he estimates around 1,200 children from St. John the Baptist to Ascension parishes have visited the patch with their classes or organizations.

Each one of those children received a tour of the Welcome Center, a hay ride and their own pumpkin to take home. They also got to take a walk through the patch’s haunted house and the boardwalk behind the Welcome Center.

“We try to make it a little educational as well as fun,” he said.

Matherne also said children can participate in the patch in a different way. He said every two days the pumpkins must be “put to sleep,” which involves turning them over to prevent rotting and to determine which pumpkins have already gone bad, and those involved in the 4H Club or seeking community service hours help him out in this endeavor.

Matherne said he is pleased with not only the patch’s success but also the location.

“We couldn’t hope for a better setting,” he said, adding, “It’s a benefit to the community.”