FREMONT COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Summer isn't two weeks old yet and a local business has already announced it won't open this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Diana's Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze, a popular fall tradition and attraction in Cañon City, made the announcement on its Facebook page last Thursday.
As late as April 24, Diana's had still planned to open and asked people for feedback on possible changes designed to promote health safety for visitors.
However, even after considering closing some activities and promoting the use of masks, hand sanitizer and social distancing, Diana's decided to close entirely.
"We decided the first week of May because that's when we'd normally start planting," said Sue Madone, who owns the business with her husband. "We could have stopped selling food and stopped the hay ride, but the social distancing on the entire pumpkin patch would have been impossible. To accomplish that, we'd have to hire a lot more people -- and then costs start going up."
Diana's brought large groups of families together, in close contact -- for activities such as gathering pumpkins, climbing hay bales and walking through a cornfield maze -- and those activities simply aren't considered safe during the pandemic.
According to the Facebook post, Diana's will take the year off to improve the farm by planting a green fertilizer crop to improve the soil, and no corn or pumpkins will be planted.
"We did not make this decision lightly," the post reads. "It comes with great concern for everyone that we do this."
Diana's had planned to celebrate its 20th anniversary this fall but will now wait until next fall.
Many in town are surprised and disappointed by the closing.
"I take my kids there every year," said Willard Anthony. "It's something fun for the kids to fo in the fall. There's not much else around here for them. I don't see why they can't open at 50% capacity as other businesses do."
Jacob Chaney manages a convenience store near the pumpkin patch.
"It brought us customers," he said. "A lot of people come down here and we get lines for drinks and snacks. So it's going to be rough."
Madone said people come from all over southern Colorado to visit the pumpkin patch -- even from as far as Alamosa.
"Pueblo has a few patches similar to ours," she said. "The Denver area has a few. That's about it. Thankfully, we've saved enough over the years that we can weather being closed this fall. We may have to make other changes when we reopen. Maybe open up more days during the week instead of just weekends. Maybe limit the time that people can spend in the corn maze."
Madone said she hasn't checked to see if her business qualifies for federal assistance.