It’s Time to Go Back to the Pumpkin Patch

Organizers at the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale are busy putting the final touches on this year’s 4th Annual Pumpkin Patch Fundraiser, which is slated to open on Saturday, September 25 on the front lawn of the church at 8 Maple Street, Sturbridge.

Photo Credit: Christine Bronson

According to committee chair Tom Mapplebeck, the annual fall event made its first appearance in 2018 as a fundraiser that benefits church operations and numerous regional ministries, with a significant benefit going to the Navajo Nation in Farmington, NM where Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers employs over 700 Native Americans during the harvest months of September and October. They also have a full time off-season NM staff that is comprised of entirely Native Americans. This has a positive and lasting impact on a region with 42% unemployment.

“Now our Pumpkin Patch has become so popular that residents from Sturbridge and surrounding towns look forward to the arrival of the tractor trailer truck that delivers the pumpkins and gourds from New Mexico and the activities that follow throughout the month of October,” Mapplebeck adds.

Once the pumpkins go on sale, volunteers from the Pumpkin Patch Committee and other church and community members will be on hand to assist with sales Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weather permitting. Masks may be required depending on current Massachusetts guidelines.
Mapplebeck says the committee would welcome volunteers from other local community groups to help unload the initial order of pumpkins when they arrive at 8 a.m. on Saturday, September 25. Additional volunteers are also needed to help with sales whenever the Pumpkin Patch is open to the public.

This year’s Pumpkin Patch Committee is also hoping to schedule an array of different pumpkin-inspired events and activities throughout the month of October, including a pumpkin carving demonstration by Roger Williams Park Jock-o-Lantern Spectacular carver Simone Germaine on Saturday, October 16 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and another demonstration the following day with local artist Heidi Curboy. “We’re proceeding a bit cautiously scheduling others at the moment,” says Mapplebeck. “We’re keeping a close watch on what’s happening with the Delta variant and the local healthcare scene. Naturally, we want to be sure we can conduct the event in as safe a manner as possible.” More scheduled events will be announced closer to the opening of this year’s Pumpkin Patch.

Master Pumpkin Carver Simone Germaine from the Roger WIlliams Park Zoo Jack-O-Lantern Spectacular

Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers began in 1974 in North Carolina with 3 acres of pumpkins and a partnership with one church. They agreed to let the church sell the pumpkins and they would share the proceeds. There was no contract, no legal proceedings…just a handshake and trust in each other. Richard and Janice Hamby have been growing pumpkins and adding partners ever since.

It’s a wonderful partnership of trust. Over 1,000 churches and non-profit organizations, including the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale, trust Pumpkin Patch Fundraisers to grow and deliver 1,200 acres of great, hardy pumpkins, and they, in turn, trust those organizations to be diligent in selling their pumpkins, honest in reporting their sales, and attentive to paying a percentage of sales toward all of the costs associated with growing, harvesting and shipping.

For additional updates, please go to the Sturbridge Federated Church Facebook page, visit the Church website at, or call the Church office at (774) 304-1021.

Final Federated Church Auction Breaks All Prior Records

Chair artisan and auction co-chair Tim Bardsley (blue tee shirt) celebrates with successful bidders Jessica Klein (left), who bid on the Sturbridge chair on behalf of Beverly Leaman, of Lancaster, PA; Andrew Allt of Sturbridge (center left), winner of the second Sturbridge chair and Karen Schoch, of Henniker, NH (center right), winner of the Publick House Chair. Ms. Schoch has been attending the auction annually since 1991 and has three additional Sturbridge chairs at home. Ann Maher, of Sturbridge (right) took home Publick House chair #50.

Bidding was hot and heavy at the 71st and Final Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale Antique Auction on the Sturbridge Common with the Sturbridge Chairs (#27 and #28 in the series) and The Publick House Chairs (#50 and #51 in the series) breaking all previous records, according to auction co-chairs Tim Bardsley and Bob Cordell.

“We had an outstanding day,” said Cordell. “The auction attracted a wonderful crowd that was ready to bid, the weather held out, and a number of items brought record prices!”

The enthusiastic audience hollered and cheered as auctioneer Gwen Carbone, of Robert E, Glass Auctioneers, deftly negotiated the price on both chairs to new heights with obvious emotion in her voice. When the dust settled, the two Sturbridge chairs sold for a new record for this series of $5,000 apiece, more than doubling the previous record of $1,900 set in 2019. The Publick House Chairs set another new record, selling for $3,000 apiece, beating the previous record price of $2,500, also set in 2019.

These highly prized chairs, artfully restored and decorated in bronze and gold powder stenciling with a lovely Sturbridge or Publick House scene by auction artisans Tim Bardsley and Brian Rhea, are part of a limited series with only one of each produced each year and they are only available at the Federated Church annual auction. Due to the pandemic-related cancellation of last year’s auction, two chairs were up for sale during this final auction.

Total sales for the final auction also set a new record, according to Bardsley. Previously, the top three revenue-producing auctions were the 70th, the 60th, and the 50th.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who contributed in any way to our 71st and final auction,” he said. “Everybody had a part to play, and every part is important. Volunteers, donors, bidders, local businesses. God blessed us richly and we will be forever grateful.”

To watch a video of the exciting bidding online, visit the Federated Church of Sturbridge and Fiskdale Facebook page at