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End of an era: Last year for Grandpa's Pumpkin Patch after about 40 years

SANDWICH – Visiting Grandpa’s Pumpkin Patch, 802 Latham St. in Sandwich, is like stopping by your grandparents’ home to pick out a pumpkin.

If you stop by the stand between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., farmer and owner Larry Phillips is usually outside, arranging the pumpkins or waving at people as they pass by, honk and wave from their cars.

Mary Ann, Larry’s wife of 64 years, often steps outside to greet and chat with customers, too.

The Phillips have been running Grandpa’s Pumpkin Patch for about 40 years, but this year will be the last. Larry Phillips turned 90 in June and looks forward to retirement.

“I would say three or four generations have been stopping by for pumpkins because it’s a good deal and the atmosphere is real nice,” Phillips said. “And they like to stop by and visit.”

In the 1960s, Phillips used to grow 20 acres of asparagus and sold it to Campbell Soup Co. After he left the asparagus farming business, he decided to grow pumpkins in the garden for his children.

Carol Phillips, the couple’s youngest daughter, remembers carving pumpkins with her family as a young girl.

“Pumpkins, Halloween and Thanksgiving have always been special in my family,” she said. “As the family grew and there were children and grandchildren, carving pumpkins became a family activity we did together over the generations.

“I don’t ever recall going and buying a pumpkin. My dad or grandpa always had a garden,” she said.

“People would stop by and ask if we have pumpkins for sale,” Larry Phillips said. “That’s when I started to grow more and more and it turned into a pumpkin patch.”

He sells pumpkins of every size and color, from gigantic orange jack-o’-lanterns and large Cinderella pumpkins to medium white pumpkins, small pie pumpkins and miniature Jack Be Little pumpkins. Phillips said green gooseneck gourds and broom corn have been popular sellers the past few years.

Prices range from $2 to $7. Small gourds are three for $1.

“We usually sell out of pumpkins by Halloween, but we never really close,” Mary Ann Phillips said.

If customers stop by when the Phillips aren’t home, there is a coffee can on a table that operates on the honor system. Through the years, the Phillips have returned home to find checks and money in the can, but never any stolen pumpkins.

“I like to keep the price down, and it’s nice that you can still trust people in town,” Phillips said. “We do what we do because it’s all about families and celebrating the holidays.”

Sandwich resident Kendall Harris used to stop by Grandpa’s Pumpkin Patch when she was younger and lived in Lake Holiday. After moving back to the area two years ago, she stops by the patch at least once a year.

“Fall’s my favorite time of year, and I get all of my fall décor from the pumpkin patch,” Harris said. “I always try to stop or at least honk and wave when I drive down Latham Street. [Larry Phillips] is extremely helpful, always available and the prices are great. I buy broom corn and many different sizes of pumpkins. I usually leave with a trunkload of items.”

Phillips said that through the years, Grandpa’s Pumpkin Patch has been a Sandwich family tradition, where parents who once came as children are now bringing their children. Some longtime customers attended Phillips’ 90th birthday party in June.

“I want to thank all my customers for supporting me over the years. It’s been a pleasure to serve them,” Phillips said.

Carol Phillips said her parents’ pumpkin patch hopefully will “leave a legacy and happy memories for other families.”

“Pumpkins are perfect for that fall feeling and counting your blessings,” she said. “Growing them, selling them, decorating them, it’s the thread that ties it all together with what the Lord has blessed us with: family, friends and what my dad has planted over time.

“What makes the pumpkin patch so great is that it has carried on in other families’ lives and in the community, not just the Phillips family,” she said. “That’s what I think is so special.”

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