Drizzling rain did not stop children Tuesday, Oct. 15, in a northeast Brainerd neighborhood from running around and playing while they eagerly waited for the Pumpkin Man to arrive.
When the Pumpkin Man pulled up in a truck with a trailer full of pumpkins of all sizes in orange and green colors, about 25 children in the neighborhood gathered along the edge of the front yard as they waited for the man to exit the truck.
The Pumpkin Man, also known as Steve Goedken, 55, of rural Garrison, greeted the children in the neighborhood as he did the previous two years, with his annual tradition of giving away free pumpkins for those who may not be able to get one for the fall holiday. Goedken asked the children to help him get the pumpkins off the trailer and to create a pumpkin patch in the front yard of Molly Cosert’s home.
“Make sure you don’t hold the pumpkin by the stem otherwise it will break,” he instructed the children, as they all grabbed a pumpkin. It got a little messy as some of the pumpkins -- which were picked Monday -- had mud on them from the rainy weather. This meant the children’s clothing took a hit, which didn’t phase the youngsters one bit.
One blond-haired young girl grabbed a pumpkin almost her size and tried to roll it off the trailer, while others carried the pumpkins with both hands, walking it to the patch. Once all the pumpkins were off the trailer, Goedken once again instructed the children to pick a pumpkin out. He then told the parents his rule of “no adults in the pumpkin patch.”
Once each child picked out a pumpkin, the Pumpkin Man told them they could pick out one more as long as they promised to give the pumpkin to someone who is elderly, disabled or in need. He also suggested they could help carve or color the pumpkin with the person they deliver the pumpkin to.
When it was all said and done, there was one more treat. Cosert’s 10-year-old daughter, Haley Cosert, wrote a story three years ago titled “The Pumpkin Man,” about Goedken and the pumpkins. Haley and 10-year-old Bethany Black Lance read the story out loud to the other children as Goedken smiled.
“I bet you are wondering why pumpkins come on a truck, well I will tell you,” the story stated. “Because my mom works at Cub (Foods) and knows someone with a (pumpkin) patch. … He said to go get Mom and she is in the garage. We carved them so cool …”
This will be Haley’s third year picking out a pumpkin.
“I love Halloween,” she said. “I like that our whole yard is filled with pumpkins. For Halloween this year I am going to be a crazy cat lady.”
It is Bethany’s second year coming. She also likes Halloween and pumpkins.
“I like having friends here and we have fun,” Bethany said of the neighborhood event. “My perfect pumpkin is for it to be oval and bigger.”
Lyric Roach, 10, helped Goedken pick about 25 pumpkins Monday.
“I look forward to this every year,” she said. “The pumpkins are so cool. I picked a pumpkin and it was the perfect size.”
Seven-year-old Tom Grecula climbed a tree and stayed there until the pumpkins arrived. When asked why he was in the Brainerd neighborhood, he said, “We are getting pumpkins.”
Tom said this was his third time picking out a pumpkin and he planned to pick the biggest one.
“We always carve them another time,” said Tom. “I like carving and eating a little bit of them.”
Born and raised on a farm, Goedken’s love of growing pumpkins stems from when he was 10 years old and spent time in the family garden. When he moved to the lakes area 23 years ago, he grew his own pumpkin patch. Three years ago, he found another way to expand on his love of pumpkins in giving them away to children in northeast Brainerd.
“I don’t sell them because that takes away the fun,” Goedken said, before the children’s event.
Now he grows about 100 pumpkins along with other vegetables on his property near Bay Lake.
Goedken times the happy event of the pumpkin giveaway on his birthday, but because of scheduling it was a day earlier this year.
“It’s a lot of fun to see the expression on the kids’ faces,” Goedken said.
This year, asking the older children to deliver a pumpkin to an older person’s house was a way to bring home the idea of giving and not just receiving. Goedken brought his 12-year-old son Casey with him.
Goedken said he always tries to teach his own children it’s not just about receiving and that kind of public service shouldn’t only be done at Christmas.
Cosert, who has worked with Goedken at Cub Foods in Baxter for about 20 years, one time mentioned there were children in her neighborhood who wouldn’t have pumpkins to carve for Halloween. When Goedken offered to bring them, Cosert said she thought he may bring about a dozen. Instead, he brought a truckload packed with about 50 pumpkins. And it’s grown from that moment into an annual event.
“This is the third year and it’s just getting bigger and bigger,” Cosert said. “He’s just awesome. He brings all the pumpkins and the kids come. They look forward to it every year.”
She described her house as a central spot for kids in her northeast Brainerd neighborhood, and she helps gather the children and their parents for the pumpkin party. Last year, they set up a pumpkin patch in the yard so the kids could pick their own.
“He’s probably one of the kindest, most generous people I’ve known,” Cosert said. “A great sense of humor, just a really nice guy so this didn’t surprise me when he wanted to do this for the kids. He just grows all these pumpkins just for the kids -- just so he can see the joy on their faces. It’s really cool. He is just always thinking about others.”
“It’s good for the kids to see the good in the world, too, not just the negativity,” Cosert said. “It’s the little things and it’s amazing how much joy a pumpkin can bring to a kid.”