Corbett pumpkin patch trip steeped in tradition
Since 1982, Phil and Judy DuFresne have hosted Corbett kindergartners for T-shirts, treats and pumpkins
Laughter and chatter fill Big Bear Store, where 33 Corbett kindergarten students gather in matching pumpkin patch T-shirts, eating apple slices, popcorn and sugar cookies.
At the end of each October, Phil DuFresne buses classes of Corbett kindergarten students to his store for T-shirts and treats. They also are bused to David Tories farm on Mershon Road to peruse the pumpkin patch and bring one home to carve.
In DuFresnes experience, the girls always pick the biggest pumpkin, wandering to the farthest edges of the patch.
I love it its amazing, says Karyn Korman, a Gresham resident and the mother of David, 5. I think the kids really appreciate it and get a lot from it.
The next half of the kindergarten group 33 of 66 will bundle up in rain boots and jackets for an afternoon visit.
Its a tradition that DuFresne and his wife, Judy, have hosted at the Big Bear Store since 1982. Several parent chaperones recall their days as pumpkin patch kids. Some kindergarten teachers werent even born when DuFresne started the yearly event.
A big class in the old days was about 15, DuFresne says with a laugh. But the winters got cold and now weve got 66.
Carrie Evans, a Corbett resident and mother, says she was among the first classes to take the Big Bear Store field trip in 1984. I think its wonderful for the community and a good tradition, she says.
Adds Karina Lande, a Corbett resident and mother, These are the things that are Corbett. This is what makes us special and unique.
Along with the pumpkin patch tradition, DuFresne dresses as Santa each year for a special breakfast the first Saturday of December.
He and Judy host a variety of community events, such as a celebration for the girls soccer team playoff games taking place this weekend.
Children, family and country, DuFresne says. There are not too many communities that can be such a close, tight-knit part of families. To see such joy and happiness this is why we live out here.
DuFresne, whose nickname is Bear, opened Big Bear Store in 1978. He and Judy raised their two children in Corbett, with their daughter working just up the road from them.
Students pose in front of a recently completed mural of the Columbia River Gorge that Pepsi created.
One, two, three, the kindergartners say in unison with their teachers, expressing gratitude toward the DuFresnes. Thank you!
Theyll remember this all year, all next year, teachers say.
As long as Im able, well continue, DuFresne says.
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