MINNEAPOLIS — About 1,500 pumpkins of varying sizes and colors have taken up residence on the grounds of Our Lady of Peace Church and School in south Minneapolis.

They arrived from New Mexico Oct. 16 and became part of the parish’s second annual Pumpkin Patch that opened the next day.

The idea came from Charlie Allen, a parent of two children who attend the parish’s Catholic school. For several years, he has wanted to create an event that not only could raise money for the parish and school, but also could be a way to build stronger ties between the two and with the neighborhood surrounding the parish.

It’s working. He launched it last year with 800 pumpkins that went on sale at the event held daily on the parish grounds. In two weeks, he sold every pumpkin and raised $4,000 for the church and school.

This year, he made it bigger, adding nearly double the number of pumpkins and setting a fundraising goal of $10,000.

The Pumpkin Patch already was off to a good start. Pumpkin sales on the first day exceeded the total of the highest day last year. Crowds were high during the weekend of Oct. 17-18, and he expected the pumpkins to be sold out by Oct. 30. The Pumpkin Patch is open daily from noon to 7 p.m.

Throughout the time the Pumpkin Patch was going on last year, Allen heard from people in the neighborhood who said to him, “You know, we need this. This is exciting.”

Based on that feedback, “I decided to double it” this year, he told The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. The response has been strong. “It’s been full out there nonstop,” he said the second afternoon of this year’s Pumpkin Patch.

The parish has a number of events planned, but the main attraction is pumpkins, which range in price from $4 to $50, depending on size, with most selling for between $11 and $18, Allen said. There also is a cornhole tournament going on, plus a scavenger hunt for kids.

Some families buy more than one pumpkin, and he even saw one family use a wheelbarrow to bring their purchase to his pay station.

The pumpkins were grown on a Navajo Indian Reservation in New Mexico and shipped to Our Lady of Peace via an organization called Pumpkins USA. Allen said there was a chance of getting more pumpkins if the first load of 1,500 sold out before the end of the month.

Unseasonably cold weather could slow things down, he said, but he anticipated he’d see steady action at the Pumpkin Patch the second weekend of the event, Oct. 24-25.

“It’s awesome,” Allen said of how well things were going. “Raising the money is key, but it’s more for building the community, making the school and the church one, and letting the neighborhood know that we’re here.”

Hrbacek is a staff writer for The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.