It’s an idea so simple, it’s hard to fathom it’s not already a tradition in the 95361 ... but it’s not.
If Basi Insurance agent and Oakdale City Councilwoman Cher Bairos has her way, however, that will change. Bairos is the brain, as well as the brawn behind the inaugural Pumpkins on the Patio initiative.
The first time event will be hosted Thursday, Oct. 17 from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Gladys Lemmons Senior Center, 450 E. A St., Oakdale.
According to Bairos the idea came after a meeting with Jane Finkenbine, City of Oakdale Recreation Coordinator. Her mission simple, she wanted to do something to bring the youth of the community and the senior citizens together. Throwing out a host of ideas, they decided to start with the pumpkins.
“The big thing was normally we would ask Rodin Farms for pumpkins,” Bairos said, sharing that she recognized she had the space on her family farm and jumped at the opportunity to make it a family project.
“They’re my babies,” she noted of the now 500-plus pumpkins she planted as seeds in early June to get ready for this event. “My dad tilled the land, he got everything ready for me and then we went on a Sunday (as a family) and planted them. I’ve been tending to them a few nights a week and on the weekends.”
Bairos said while the project began as something for the community, it resulted in a true family labor of love.
“Going back to my roots and rubber boots; that’s been the main thing. I loved being out there,” she chimed.
As the councilwoman speaks of the pumpkins, one can’t help but be impressed by her (as well as her family’s) dedication and the love she has for the pumpkins they grew. Bairos said the growing taught her a lot, which she will apply to next year’s crop. And while she did not utilize the Rodin family for a donation of pumpkins, she did rely on their expertise for guidance on when to harvest the crop.
“I go to the ranch and I see them in the bins and I feel very, very proud,” she said of the family property. “It’s just a fun thing to do. It’s been a very good family project and the kids are excited because it’s giving back to the community.”
Now, however, the time has come to prepare for the actual event and the community she hopes to bring together. With the help of friend and community volunteer Lisa Ballard, Bairos plans to have an assortment of crafting options for the pumpkin enthusiasts.
“Of course Lisa,” Bairos said of enlisting her friend’s help. “She always steps in and wants to get her volunteers. She steps in anywhere. She’s amazing.”
Known for her passion for not just volunteering but bringing volunteers together, Ballard has utilized her resources to gather youth volunteers as well as paint, brushes, glitter and the like to help attendees create personal and one of a kind pumpkins.
“It really is a community event,” Ballard said, sharing donations which have been made toward the event, such as Oakdale Community Sharing’s generosity of saving and donating egg cartons to be used to hold the paints.
In an almost unintentional pay it forward fashion, Bairos is now sharing the quality time shared with her father, wife, children and extended family with hopes of creating similar memories for the seniors and the youth.
“They help each other and they can learn from each other,” she said of the generations. “Maybe some of them won’t be able to carve the pumpkins or paint but the kids will be there to help. Just something to get them all engaged. And the seniors I believe will appreciate it.”
“Some people don’t have children and grandkids,” Lisa added. “I have volunteered quite a bit and when I go down to the care center they light up. When they see little kids, they light up.”
Once all is said and done, both ladies noted whether it be two seniors and a few students or standing room only, the end result will be worth it.
“I’m just proud,” Bairos said of the pumpkins, family time and overall result, “and I look forward to people going there.”
Donations of paint, brushes or other items and those interested in volunteer opportunities may contact Bairos at (209) 496-1134.