CHAMPAIGN — If the pandemic’s got you down, how does a cider slush and an apple crisp doughnut sound?
Curtis Orchard & Pumpkin Patch is set to reopen July 20, and co-owner Randy Graham said he’s hoping this Champaign seasonal attraction will bring some smiles in the midst of pandemic gloom.
The orchard has been working with public health officials on safe reopening plans and will be able to offer much of what it typically has in years past, he said.
“Anything we can do safely, we’re going to do,” Graham said.
That will include the indoor country store, to be open with it’s usual merchandise, plus cider, bakery, peaches, blueberries and some other fresh produce.
The apples are coming along in the orchards but may not be immediately available, Graham said. Due to the cooler spring weather, they got a bit later start on the ripening process, he said.
The indoor Flying Monkey Cafe will be open for lunch as in years past, though indoor seating will be more limited for social distancing, and outdoor seating will be encouraged, Graham said.
The orchard has plenty of outdoor seating, he said, and more picnic tables have been purchased to set out as needed.
Also available from opening day and beyond will be the corn maze, rope maze and Putt ‘n Play area.
The inflatables will be closed for now, but pony rides will still be available, and the orchard’s goats and kittens will be around to visit, Graham said.
Because Curtis Orchard is typically closed to the public anyway during the months since the pandemic began, Graham said employees have largely been doing what they’d normally be doing — such as planting the pumpkin field, raising the fruit and making plans — to get ready for opening day, “though we’ve had to look at everything differently.”
As in other years, the orchard still plans to offer you-pick apples after they’re ready.
The orchard rows are well-spaced, and access to the orchard is already controlled at the entry point, so employees will be able to limit the number of people going in and out as needed, Graham said.
Coming in later August will be a return of the Wicked Orchard Shootout, an activity using air cannons to shoot tennis balls at targets.
Bands are being booked in anticipation that the orchard will be able to provide live music outdoors as usual in September and October, Graham said.
“There again, we’re hoping time will be on our side in this case,” he said.
Also returning in the fall will be pumpkins, gourds and squash.
And something new this year, if an experimental venture pans out: A field of giant zinnias has been planted, with flowers to be available for you-pick, pre-picked or both, Graham said.
More to know if you go:
— Hand sanitizer will be available, and you’ll be expected to use it before you pick fruit.
— The store and high-touch surfaces will be frequently cleaned and sanitized.
— Face masks will be required for all interactions with orchard staff.