Rain or shine, Pumpkin Train will ride Saturday
By JANE UTECHT, Staff Reporter
The weather forecast is not the best for Saturday's fourth annual Pumpkin Train at Prairie Village. However, the forecast for fun is great, with a decided amount of the credit going to one volunteer.
Dar Algra, a Prairie Village gardening volunteer, shows off some of the fruits of his summer's labor at the Prairie Village pumpkin patch.
Dar Algra is a Prairie Village volunteer with a green thumb. He takes care of the flowers at the village, and for the last two years he has tended the pumpkin patch on the east side of the attraction.
As a rule, Algra plants two varieties of pumpkins, those that are of a certain size for kids, a "toteable" size, he calls them. This year, he added a few specialty pumpkins for variety.
"That's the gardener in me...always gotta try the new thing," he said.
Although most children are looking for the traditional pumpkin, there's about 10 percent or so who want "something different," he said.
This year children can choose from a few white pumpkins, some with bumpy skin (what Algra calls "warty" pumpkins), a couple that are striped, some that are yellow and a French variety that is a deep, bright orange, almost red, in a flat, squat shape.
This year, there are also a few green pumpkins, the result of a late planting time. Algra planted the seeds in the 75x150-foot spot in June, but he checked a few days later and found that gophers had eaten a lot of the seeds. He started another batch in pots around June 21. He got the first of the 250 plants into the ground on July 1. By the Threshing Jamboree in late August, they were just starting to get blossoms and little pumpkins. After that, the pumpkins did well, "considering as late as it was," he said. "It doesn't take long to produce a pumpkin."
He said the soil at the pumpkin patch is perfect for vine crops, a sandy/clay variety.
Some pumpkins have grown large, some are still small. Often children who've been on the Pumpkin Train before nab those.
"They know how heavy they are," Algra said.
Any child under age 12 can come to the village to pick whatever size or color pumpkin they want from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The cost is $5 per child (adults and teens are free) with proceeds going to the Chapel Car at the village.
All ages can enjoy the train ride, as well as games, cider and donuts. There will also be gourds and little pumpkins for sale, all grown at Prairie Village.
"We've had a ball" growing the pumpkins, Algra said.