ORANGE CITY—The familiar orange colors of Pumpkinland will not return.
Owner Helen Huitink announced on Facebook on Monday that she was closing the beloved rural Orange City attraction.
The post generated a lot of response and reached thousands of people. Many of the comments on the post thanked Huitink for the plethora of memories Pumpkinland provided over the last 29 years.
People shared with Huitink and her daughter, Sherry Lang, special moments that happened at the business.
“They got engaged here; a husband was battling cancer and this was his only outing; this was the first place couples took their newborn babies,” Lang said.
“People had their first dates here or they used to come here on school field trips or with youth groups and then they started bringing their own families,” Huitink said. “Hearing all of the stories and memories people are telling . . . it is hard to think I am not letting them down.”
The decision to shut down Pumpkinland was one that Huitink reflected on for weeks before she made it definite. She and Lang said it was a hard decision to make because the business had been a huge aspect of Huitink’s life.
“It was a part of Mom and Dad,” Lang said. “Every conversation they had there was talk about Pumpkinland.”
Last year was the first time Huitink ran Pumpkinland without her husband, Dave, who died suddenly in April 2018 at the age of 68. She did not have to do it alone as family, friends, neighbors, church groups and even a Boy Scout troop showed up to help Huitink set up and operate Pumpkinland in 2018 following her husband’s death.
“Last year was hard because she was without the person who made it special,” Lang said. “Looking to do it again would have been more difficult.”
Not only did Dave Huitink, know as “Grandpa Pumpkin,” care for the plants and animals at Pumpkinland but he also visited with customers and greeted the students on school field trips. His presence was missed.
Helen Huitink, known as “Grandma Pumpkin,” did not want to let the community down by not continuing Pumpkinland another year.
The support she has received since the announcement made has been encouraging, however.
“Overall, people have been very supportive and understanding,” Huitink said. “They are also disappointed and sad.”
She stressed that neither the Pumpkinland business nor the land is for sale. Huitink plans to remain on the farm and continue taking care of the yard that meant to much to her husband. She also wants to make sure the farm gets its Century Farm recognition from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. The farm has been in the his family for 99 years and Huitink said the 2020 recognition was important to him.
“Dave’s grandparents and parents lived here and we have been here more than 40 years,” she said. “Next April this will be a Century Farm. It meant a lot to Dave and I would like to get that plaque, that designation.”
How long Helen Huitink will remain on the farm afterward is not known. She has not looked that far ahead and feels a little uncertain and scared about what the future might hold.
“Mom has not known a life without Pumpkinland,” Lang said. “Twenty-nine years is her whole life. She would spend all year planning for Pumpkinland and now this is a brand-new area she is walking in to.”
Huitink is walking in to that area with a toughness and strength that she did not know she had. She said God has helped her by letting her know everything is OK and will be OK in the future.
“One thing I am going to miss is seeing all the people and customers who came year after year,” Huitink said. “I am going to miss them immensely.”