To open or not to open? East Bay pumpkin patches, Halloween traditions in limbo because of COVID-19

CLAYTON, Calif. (KGO) -- Counties are starting to issue new Halloween guidelines just as East Bay pumpkin patches are making a big decision - to open or not open? There are big implications for the popular holiday.

A lazy pig snored in the sun at Clayton Valley Pumpkin Farm this year. After all, it's going to end up being a quiet fall there.

"We've had generations come here and their kids come," Owner David Osteen said. "You go through those gates and it's been magic. Dozens and dozens of people in the fields at once with their carts searching for the perfect pumpkin."

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But this year is different

Osteen describes the agony of making a decision on what to do this year with COVID-19.

"I think we can be open, no we can't. I think we can be open, no we can't," he said.

In June, the owners made the choice to close and let their supply chain know to not grow the pumpkins.

Osteen added, "Every day it's being verified we made the right decision."

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He showed off the miniature train that usually carries 26 passengers through the pumpkin patch. This year they could only take three at a time and disinfect in between riders so he just thought that seemed impossible for distancing.

"We are a crowd festival is what we are and that's the hardest thing to social distance," he said.

So the pumpkin patch has opened an online store instead.

"We are going to be holding Instagram and Facebook contests and we have a folloween calendar with activities you can do with your family," said his daughter, Deborah Osteen.

But other pumpkin patches are making plans to open like the Classic Pumpkin Patch at Rowells Ranch in Castro Valley .

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"Pumpkin patches are considered agricultural just like a farmers market, so we're good to go and the county's already given us approval," said George D'Olivo, the owner of Classic Amusement Pumpkin Patch. "We think it's important to keep that tradition going for the holiday with small business in mind."

Contra Costa Health Services just issued their Halloween guidelines, advising against trick-or-treating, haunted houses and crowded gatherings.

Instead they suggest remote zoom costume parties, decorating yards and houses and drive through parades.

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