Pumpkinville set to open Sept. 12 with coronavirus safeguards, lower capacity

Pumpkinville owner Dan Pawlowski holds a pumpkin in the yard where hundreds of pumpkins are being assembled for visitors when the Great Valley attraction opens Sept. 12.

GREAT VALLEY — Like other agri-tourism fall destinations, Pumpkinville got the go-ahead this week to open under strict COVID- 19 protocols and limited capacity.

Pumpkinville opens daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., beginning Sept. 12.

Owner Dan Pawlowski said everyone — staff and visitors — will be wearing face masks and social distancing. There will be plenty of hand sanitation too.

“Everything is going on with a twist,” Pawlowski smiled.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has limited capacity at the agri-tourism to one-third of what it was last year, but Pawlowski is hoping the governor will relent and allow attendance at 50% capacity.

“We don’t think we’re more dangerous than restaurants,” he said. “Almost everything is outside.” Children won’t be allowed to pet the farm animals.

“We’re going to be safe here,” Pawlowski said. “We’re not going to take any chances.” Plexiglass shields are everywhere, too.

More Pumpkinville visitors will be encouraged to come during the week, Pawlowski said. People will be encouraged to make reservations and buy wristbands online on weekends. Weekday discounts will be applied to promote weekday visits.

On weekends, a restricted area around the main attractions will allow only 33% of visitor capacity. Pumpkinville’s online portal is set to monitor the capacity, Pawlowski said.

“Our food tables are appropriately distanced,” he said. “Even seating on the Pumpkinville train and cow train are set up to provide distance between families while allowing children from the same family to sit together.”

Pawlowski said he anticipates more people will be visiting on weekend days. “We’re built for large crowds” so there is a lot of room.

“If you are not willing to wear a mask, we’ll see you next year,” Pawlowski said. “We’re not going to put the health of our family, our staff or our visitors at risk. Do I hope the state raises the 33% capacity to 50%? Yes.”

Pumpkinville has about 100 employees.

This year’s Pumpkinville corn maize seems fitting given the times. From above, it reads: “Thank You to our everyday heroes.” There are pictures of a doctor, nurse and first responder. It seems fitting given the times.

“This is our only opportunity,” Pawlowski said of the time between shortly after Labor Day and Halloween that Pumpkinville is open. “We’re blessed to be here.”

The Labor Department just inspected the rides at Pumpkinville on Wednesday.

The merry-go-round that opened last year under a tent is now covered by a grain bin cover that fits in nicely with the farm theme of the grounds.

Pawlowski’s wife, Diane, who runs the bakery, is readying for this year’s opening. Don’t forget to ask for a pumpkin doughnut.

The Pumpkinville apple cider mill and barbecue will be in operation on weekends.

Pawlowski said the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism helped navigate the state’s coronavirus protocols.

“We’ve been working with director Crystal Abers when entertainment was allowed to reopen,” he said. “The county Health Department has reviewed our COVID-19 plans.”

There will be no helicopter rides this year, Pawlowski said.

“We had planned to add a craft beer garden this year with Ellicottville Brewing Company,” he added, “but with everything else we’ve got to do, we decided to hold off until next year.”

He said Pumpkinville’s job is to make sure it’s run in a safe manner.

“We’re going to take it one week at a time,” Pawlowski said. “There are a lot of protocols for employees. I scan their temperature as they come in and they answer some health questions.”

Staff started bringing pumpkins from the field to set up on the grounds on Wednesday.

“We’ve got a great crop of pumpkins,” Pawlowski said. “It’s been a hot summer — good for growing.”

Pumpkinville will again participate with the Pink Pumpkin Project to sell sunflowers for the first two weekends as a fundraiser. Last year, the effort raised $4,800 for Pink Pumpkin.

“People are starving for something wholesome and safe to do,” Pawlowski said. “This isn’t forever, just for now.”

Check out Pumpkinville’s website and Facebook page for more details.

(Contact reporter Rick Miller at rmiller@oleantimesherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)

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