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Out of weeds grows a Palo Alto pumpkin patch — and community spirit

Baskin-Robbins owner Seng Kaing creates a 'Hidden Halloween' pop-up patch to build community spirit

Eabha and Maeve Hartman play in the hay with their baby brother, Amit, at a pumpkin and hay-filled Halloween patch behind the Baskin-Robbins at 2615 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto in September 2021. Courtesy Carrie Manley.

In a lot behind the Midtown shopping center usually filled with weeds, a hay-bale circle dedicated to the most supernatural of holidays has taken shape. The rectangular bales encircle a straw and wood "altar" covered with bright orange pumpkins, corn stalks and colorful fall leaves. The display is guarded by a dangling ghost effigy and a pumpkin-headed goblin. A skeleton sprawls between two large pumpkins, resting his bones.

A Halloween display has been created behind the Baskin-Robbins at 2615 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto for the community to enjoy. Courtesy Carrie Manley.

With the vibe of a magical circle fit for a full-moon ritual, this pop-up mini Halloween park could be Palo Alto's own version of Stonehenge.

By daylight, it's a gathering place for families, where children can paint or carve their own pumpkins and visitors of all ages can sit and chat or relax in the warm afternoon sunshine.

The Hidden Halloween is the creation of Baskin-Robbins franchise owner Seng Kaing, his wife, Ivy, and two of their relatives: Kent Chang and Tim Sin. They spent hours clearing the lot and hauling 24 straw bales they'd imported from Half Moon Bay. Pumpkins of all sizes sit on each bale. They aren't yet carved, since it's early in the season, but a few showed the promising signs of a Jack-o-ween to come: fake blood trickled down the smooth orange skin and one was decorated with a blue painted heart.

Kaing, who has owned the Midtown Baskin-Robbins at 2615 Middlefield Road for six years, said the land behind his store has been empty for a long time. He's always wanted to do something with it and this year he received permission from the landlord to set up the Halloween display. It opened about the third week of September.

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The pumpkin patch is a labor of love — a means to bring the community together, especially during these hard, COVID-19 times, he said.

Seng Kaing, manager of the Baskin Robbins at 2615 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto, moves a bale of hay while putting together a Halloween pop-up event behind the Baskin Robbins store in September 2021. Courtesy Carrie Manley.

"It took a half a day to finish it. Before, people passed by an empty, dirty lot. Now, they pass by and take pictures, get ice cream and enjoy the spot. People say 'thank you' and the kids are happy. Families don't have to go far away.

"With COVID, you don't have to be in a pumpkin patch with a lot of people. You can be in a small family setting and take pictures," he said.

Midtown resident Carrie Manley and some of her neighbors are planning an informal, free gathering on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 4 p.m. for anyone who'd like to join in the Halloween fun of carving a pumpkin, she said.

It's a bring-your-own-pumpkin-carving-equipment event.

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"Pumpkin donations, of any size, are welcome. COVID safety is encouraged, so mask up, and know that behind every mask, there's a guaranteed smile," she said in an email.

Manley said she noticed the patch when she saw Kaing and his family weeding the lot and hauling in the hay bales.

'There's something magical about this pop-up pumpkin patch. Every time I walk by, I notice a few more pumpkins perched on the hay bales.'

-Carrie Manley, resident, Palo Alto

"There's something magical about this pop-up pumpkin patch. Every time I walk by, I notice a few more pumpkins perched on the hay bales. I am really grateful to the Baskin-Robbins manager Seng Kaing, and his family, for all their hard work, generosity, and creativity in transforming an empty lot into what I consider to be a perfect pumpkin patch, filled with bales of fun and the Halloween spirit," she said.

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Out of weeds grows a Palo Alto pumpkin patch — and community spirit

Baskin-Robbins owner Seng Kaing creates a 'Hidden Halloween' pop-up patch to build community spirit

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 8, 2021, 7:53 am

In a lot behind the Midtown shopping center usually filled with weeds, a hay-bale circle dedicated to the most supernatural of holidays has taken shape. The rectangular bales encircle a straw and wood "altar" covered with bright orange pumpkins, corn stalks and colorful fall leaves. The display is guarded by a dangling ghost effigy and a pumpkin-headed goblin. A skeleton sprawls between two large pumpkins, resting his bones.

With the vibe of a magical circle fit for a full-moon ritual, this pop-up mini Halloween park could be Palo Alto's own version of Stonehenge.

By daylight, it's a gathering place for families, where children can paint or carve their own pumpkins and visitors of all ages can sit and chat or relax in the warm afternoon sunshine.

The Hidden Halloween is the creation of Baskin-Robbins franchise owner Seng Kaing, his wife, Ivy, and two of their relatives: Kent Chang and Tim Sin. They spent hours clearing the lot and hauling 24 straw bales they'd imported from Half Moon Bay. Pumpkins of all sizes sit on each bale. They aren't yet carved, since it's early in the season, but a few showed the promising signs of a Jack-o-ween to come: fake blood trickled down the smooth orange skin and one was decorated with a blue painted heart.

Kaing, who has owned the Midtown Baskin-Robbins at 2615 Middlefield Road for six years, said the land behind his store has been empty for a long time. He's always wanted to do something with it and this year he received permission from the landlord to set up the Halloween display. It opened about the third week of September.

The pumpkin patch is a labor of love — a means to bring the community together, especially during these hard, COVID-19 times, he said.

"It took a half a day to finish it. Before, people passed by an empty, dirty lot. Now, they pass by and take pictures, get ice cream and enjoy the spot. People say 'thank you' and the kids are happy. Families don't have to go far away.

"With COVID, you don't have to be in a pumpkin patch with a lot of people. You can be in a small family setting and take pictures," he said.

Midtown resident Carrie Manley and some of her neighbors are planning an informal, free gathering on Sunday, Oct. 10, at 4 p.m. for anyone who'd like to join in the Halloween fun of carving a pumpkin, she said.

It's a bring-your-own-pumpkin-carving-equipment event.

"Pumpkin donations, of any size, are welcome. COVID safety is encouraged, so mask up, and know that behind every mask, there's a guaranteed smile," she said in an email.

Manley said she noticed the patch when she saw Kaing and his family weeding the lot and hauling in the hay bales.

"There's something magical about this pop-up pumpkin patch. Every time I walk by, I notice a few more pumpkins perched on the hay bales. I am really grateful to the Baskin-Robbins manager Seng Kaing, and his family, for all their hard work, generosity, and creativity in transforming an empty lot into what I consider to be a perfect pumpkin patch, filled with bales of fun and the Halloween spirit," she said.

Comments

Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 8, 2021 at 9:58 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2021 at 9:58 am

This is a charming idea. I know there has been some vandalism taking place which is not welcome. Thank you for doing this.

I hope that the space can be utilized for other such events in the future when pumpkin season is over.


Retired Teacher
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 8, 2021 at 11:17 am
Retired Teacher, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2021 at 11:17 am

I love this sooooo much! Thank you, Seng and family!!! Happy Halloween!


Walter Underwood
Registered user
Greendell/Walnut Grove
on Oct 8, 2021 at 5:59 pm
Walter Underwood, Greendell/Walnut Grove
Registered user
on Oct 8, 2021 at 5:59 pm

Do you know why that is an empty, weed-filled spot? Because the new owners of the shopping center chased out the Midtown Community Garden in 2017. It has been empty since then. The previous owners had leased the land for $60/month to the garden. The new owners wanted thousands of dollars per month.

Details are in this story:

Web Link


Sally-Ann Rudd
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 9, 2021 at 7:44 am
Sally-Ann Rudd, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 7:44 am

I was about to post same as Walter. It wasn't a weed-filled lot, it was a popular and vibrant community garden that was destroyed by the new owners of the shopping center!


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2021 at 8:37 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 8:37 am

I remember the community garden and remember the community being very upset when it was forced to close - bulldozed away almost overnight.

The land has not been used for anything since. That is and has been so wrong. I am surprised that the article made little note of the history of this piece of idle land.


Bystander
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 9, 2021 at 9:23 am
Bystander, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 9:23 am

Happy to see Seng and Baskin Robbins create this pumpkin patch for the community. Going to bring my family by for some fall photos this weekend.


Bystander
Registered user
Midtown
on Oct 9, 2021 at 2:49 pm
Bystander, Midtown
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 2:49 pm

The Midtown Community Garden lost its corporate sponsor in 2017 and without corporate funding, the garden's organizer did not to renew the lease. In the latter years before its demise, the garden seemed disorganized and mismanaged, with PA police finding people growing illegal opium in the garden and police pursuits that ended with suspects hiding inside the fenced areas.

There were also complaints of occasional homeless camps setup and trash/junk dumping causing a mess and infestations. The new owners then decided to clear out the garden and was looking to turn it into an overflow parking lot with EV charging stations, but then the pandemic hit and those plans were put on hold.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 9, 2021 at 3:52 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 3:52 pm

Very interesting that someone else can use my nom de plume. I was under the impression that the reason we register a name is so that we have unique handles or monikers.

I am not objecting to this, just want it to be said that there are more than one of us registered now.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Oct 9, 2021 at 5:10 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Oct 9, 2021 at 5:10 pm

Bystander(s), there's at least one more "Online Name" here albeit from a different neighborhood. Confusing at best.


Jennifer
Registered user
another community
on Oct 10, 2021 at 8:10 am
Jennifer, another community
Registered user
on Oct 10, 2021 at 8:10 am

Community spirit. Cool.

We have log in accounts so Embarcadero Media knows who we are. The only way to avoid someone trolling your screen name is to use your name.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:29 am
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 14, 2021 at 8:29 am

This pumpkin patch has been vandalized at least twice.

Today Nextdoor is full of comments about vandalism due to Paly's infamous Egg Wars which hit at least two parks last night.


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