IDAHO FALLS — The U-Pick Red Barn pumpkin patch has been a fixture in Idaho Falls for the past 11 years.
But when one of the founders of the popular business suddenly died earlier this year, many wondered if U-Pick would re-open.
McNeil Walker, 21, was riding his tractor near Roberts when a semi-truck slammed into him on Apr. 27. The Idaho Falls native died on the scene. Idaho State Police are still investigating the crash.
McNeil was 11-years-old when he started the now six-acre pumpkin patch on Rollandet St. with his 12-year-old cousin, Chase Walker.
“We started small but over the years it’s really grown and become quite busy,” Chase Walker tells EastIdahoNews.com. “But I’ll be honest. This year has been extremely difficult at times.”
Chase and McNeil have spent thousands of hours working in their pumpkin patch over the years. The day McNeil died, the cousins had spent a few hours spraying weeds and creating memories Chase says he’ll never forget.
“With the loss of McNeil, it can make it really hard coming here some times,” Chase says. “In May and June, when we planted, it was really difficult to wrap our heads around McNeil no longer being here.”
Because of McNeil’s death, planting of the pumpkins was delayed this year. Chase worried the crop might fail and was stunned when a large number of healthy pumpkins started to appear on the vines.
“It was a miracle that we got as many as we did,” Chase recalls. “I think McNeil definitely had a hand in us being blessed with so many pumpkins. He’s still involved – I honestly believe that.”
The U-Pick Red Barn has more than just pumpkins. There’s a 50-passenger train, hot donuts, caramel popcorn, a chicken coop, fun activities for kids and more.
The patch is now open Monday thru Saturday until Halloween. If visitors want pumpkins on Sunday, the business offers an honor system that allows customers to leave money in a box.
Chase knows this season will be different but he’s thankful for the time he got to spend with McNeil and is determined to carry on in his memory.
“I actually enjoy coming here now because I feel like it brings back so many memories,” Chase says. “I’ve learned a lot in the past four months – especially the fact that if we trust God, everything will work out.”
Stephan Rockefeller, EastIdahoNews.com
Julia Tellman, Teton Valley News
Nate Sunderland, EastIdahoNews.com