By LISA BRITTON
Of the Baker City Herald
The kindergartners inch closer to the grass, eyes searching the mass of pumpkins scattered at their feet.
At the nod from fair manager Andi Sexton, the children run off, weaving around tall ones and small ones, pumpkins with smooth skin and others with rippled orange wrinkles.
A few strain to lift pumpkins nearly as tall as themselves, then run off to choose a smaller, more manageable size.
andquot;Whatever they can pick up and haul off on their own,andquot; Sexton said.
Madison Hatfield, 5, knew exactly what kind of face her pumpkin would sport come Halloween.
andquot;A happy one,andquot; she said, before running off to explore the straw bale maze.
On Thursday and Friday, the Baker County Fair Board invited students from local schools to the pumpkin patch, located on the grassy area at the new fairgrounds.
On Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., the patch will be open to the public for $1. Pumpkins will be sold by the weight for 20 cents a pound. There will also be vendors selling harvest-related crafts and food until 4 p.m.
But Thursday it was all for the kids.
Corbin Sorensen, 5, hugged his chosen pumpkin to his chest as others rushed around him.
andquot;I just don't want a big one. This is the one I want it's my size,andquot; he said.
He planned to carve it into a andquot;jack-o-lantern with a happy face.andquot;
Carolyn Parker, who teaches kindergarten at Brooklyn, said the patch was a great opportunity for the students.
andquot;A lot of them never make it to a farm. And it was neat that we could walk here,andquot; she said.
Parker's students were going to take their pumpkins back to school and paint faces on them during the week of Halloween.
andquot;We thought we'd go through too many Band-Aids if we used knives,andquot; she said.
Students in Bonnie Taie's kindergarten class from Brooklyn were going to take their newly claimed pumpkins home.
But they'll still have pumpkins around next week at school, Taie said.
andquot;This is a really nice promotion to next week,andquot; she said.
She brought two of her own home-grown pumpkins to the classroom, and each weigh more than 60 pounds, she said.
andquot;We do a lot of math stuff with them,andquot; she said.
The students get to hug the pumpkin, then cut off a length of string that they guess to be the right circumference.
Then the students get to name the pumpkins and design the face, with eyes, nose, mouth, ears and more.
andquot;It gets very detailed,andquot; Taie said.
After the pumpkin's innards are removed, the seeds are saved for a spring science project. The students will each plant a seed in a carton, start it growing, then take it home for planting.
andquot;They'll all have their own pumpkin patch,andquot; Taie said.