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CARBONDALE — When Rainbow Cafe LGBTQ+ Center and community members gather this Sunday for Rainbow Family Day at Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch, gender and sexual identity aren’t the only kinds of diversity that will be honored.

The “menu”  for the night includes vegan hot dogs, dairy-free marshmallows, and gluten-free buns and graham crackers in addition to regular junk food, says Carrie Vine, executive director of Rainbow Cafe.

Kids and adults that have sensory issues can tuck way into a quiet spot at Bandy’s away from commotion. The hayride will be accessible to people using wheelchairs or who have movement challenges.


Carrie Vine and Bandy, mascot for Bandy's Pumpkin Patch.

Carrie Vine poses with Punky, the mascot for Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch. Sunday’s fun will include a 4 p.m. group photo with Bandy.



And there’s a big sign at the entrance of Bandy’s that says, “America is no place for hate,” along with a list of all the potential differences among people that are respected at the patch: race, religion, ethnicity, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, abilities, languages, ages …..

“We mean that,” wrote Kelly and Troy Bandy in an email interview. “Everyone is welcome here as long as they are acting in a kind manner. We recognize that we serve a diverse community with different beliefs, needs and abilities and it is our mission to make everyone in that community feel welcome.”

The welcoming and affirming attitude from Bandy’s is refreshing considering the pumpkin patch’s history stretches back 37 years. Bandy’s has built a strong reputation over those decades for providing all kinds of fall fun to kids and adults.

The grounds include a maze, a dozen types of pumpkins, hayrides, and a Play Barn for younger kids with giant versions of Legos and Jenga, a bounce pad, slides and more.  The sensory area away from the ruckus includes sensory toys, coloring books, an adult-size hammock, and a ground mat.

“You can tell that the owners just really like people and have a good time at what they are doing,” reads a glistening review on Enjoying Illinois in 2008.

Troy Bandy also appeared in Rainbow Cafe’s groundbreaking “Farms and Faces of Southern Illinois 2022” calendar.

Response so far to Bandy’s Family Night with Rainbow Cafe is massive: the pumpkin patch opened up its second private fire pit to the group for the night. Bandy’s also has a “community fire pit, where sitting around the fire and talking with someone who may have different views is encouraged.”


Bandys pumpkin patch sensory area

Bandy’s includes a quieter “sensory area” where kids can play in a less loud and active way.

In addition to private parties for groups, churches, families, scout troupes, and milestone parties like birthdays and retirements, Bandy’s also hosts field trips for school kids and anticipates 4,000 youngsters will traverse the grounds during the 45 days the patch is open.

For more information on the big evening with Rainbow Cafe, check out the Facebook event page. You can also learn more about Bandy’s at its website, or its Facebook page.

(photos courtesy Bandy’s Pumpkin Patch)