By RICK HAYES
OPDYKE — —
With the first day of fall on Sunday, and cool temperatures predicted, several hundred visitors are expected to converge on Marlow's Pumpkin Patch and Adventure Farm this weekend.
Marlow's, located south of Illinois 15 on Marlow Road, officially opened for business last weekend, with its first ever craft fair.
The pumpkin patch offers a variety of activities for youngsters and families, from a pirate ship hay ride to a haunted barn and corn maze. In addition, the family farm raises pumpkins, gourds, mums, straw, and other items. Weekend vendors offer homemade ice cream and kettle corn.
The business is owned and operated by Tim and Tracy Marlow, now in its 15th year of operation. The couple are assisted with the business by Tim's parents, Mark and Sharon Marlow, and their five children: Emily, 21, Erica, 18, Ellie, 12, Elicia, 8, and Emerie, 7.
Hours of operation are noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, with groups invited during the daytime hours, including schoolchildren, nursing homes, churches and other fraternal organizations. Groups may call 244-7129 to schedule appointments.
"We're going to have several pumpkins this year," Tim Marlow said of his crop. "Some of them didn't get as big as what we usually have. We haven't a good rain out here since the first of August so some of the pumpkins didn't get as big as we like. Overall, we have a good crop."
Pumpkin prices range from $3.50 for a jack-o-lantern and upward, depending on size. Smaller-sized pumpkins are less expensive.
Marlow added the mums were planted two weeks later than usual due to a wet spring, but they "turned out pretty good." Mark Marlow said the patch will be able to offer Indian corn for the first time in three years.
The Marlows have expanded their operation to include additional parking on the east side of the roadway, equipment has been added to the playground, and decorations have been added on the $2 per person hayride. Marlow wanted to have an additional "monster" corn maze on the east side of the road, but a wet spring prevented crops from being planted in time.
Marlow said there is no need to travel long distances to visit a pumpkin patch this fall.
"We are family-friendly and close to Mt. Vernon. I think we've got some of the best attractions anywhere in Southern Illinois," he said. "We give everybody fun and a good value."
Marlow's Pumpkin Patch will be open through Oct. 30.