JOHNSTON CITY -- For over three decades Bandy's Pumpkin Patch has drawn thousands of visitors annually to its home in rural Williamson County between Johnston City and Herrin.
During the 2020 season, then owner Johna Bandy conferred with family members and the decision was made that the patch would remain closed.
"It was a decision we never thought we would have to make," said Johna last year. "We work year-round to bring our community a month and a half of togetherness, That is something we never imagined we would have to discourage. Our activities promote togetherness, social gatherings, snuggling on hayrides, swimming in corn bins, gathering around fire pits."
However, the family rallied and decided to make the best of the down time.
Johna decided to retire and pass the reins to the next generation.
Troy and his wife, Kelly, have stepped up in a big way.
When the patch opened on Saturday, visitors were greeted with not only thousands of pumpkins of all shapes and sizes, but several areas of the facility that have been upgraded.
The couple started by making everything completely handicap accessible.
That included making all of the wagons wheelchair-friendly.
"Thanks to ALPHA Home Health Care we now have an ADA compliant ramp leading right to our hayride wagons," said Kelly.
Then they upgraded the play barn, adding games and a new corn bin.
They added a family tractor tire swing.
They also added a community fire pit and revamped the two private party fire pits.
"We added a 12x16 shelter at each of the pits," said Kelly. There is also a new 200 amp electrical service that will handle up to eight crockpots.
"Anyone can come and enjoy sitting by the fire," said Kelly, referring to the community pit.
There is no fee to visit the patch, but the activities are individually priced.
One of the most popular is the 10-acres Corn Maze.
This year's maze gives a nod to the environment as well as inclusion, with the message "Bee Kind" woven into the design.
The maze will even be open at night this year.
Several games have been added to the play barn, all geared for visitors 12 and under.
Several photo areas set up for visitors to use and all are free, just like the admission.
Johna is still around.
"She is providing guidance and wisdom," said Kelly. "She is also watching our son, Draegan."
In true family-owned tradition, Draegan has also claimed his role in the family business, as the mascot.