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Harvest candy at Mad Mandarins' 'pick-your-own' Halloween event in Placer County

Trees normally covered in mandarin oranges will be covered instead with sweet treats.

PENRYN, Calif. — Halloween is right around the corner, and in light of the coronavirus pandemic limiting some favorite activities, one local orchard is doing something a little different. 

Penryn farm Mad Mandarins in Placer County is setting up candy in their mandarin orchard, allowing children to "harvest" the candy on Halloween.

"We've never done this before," Cherryl Macalino, Mad Mandarins farm owner, founder, and operator said. "This is all due to...just working with COVID right now."

The orchard normally opens for mandarin 'pick-your-own' harvests will now have sweet treats growing on their trees for children to trick-or-treat. Macalino said the idea came to her when people in a community group she's in began asking what others were doing for Halloween amid the pandemic. Mad Mandarins hosted a socially-distant, COVID-19 cautious Easter egg hunt in April and Macalino realized the idea could be modified for Halloween, as well.

"We wanted to make sure that we still provided for the kids, right?" Macalino said. "This year for 2020, so much was taken away from them, that we wanted to make sure that we can still celebrate Halloween, but do it safely."

The Treat Harvest has taken a lot of planning to work with coronavirus restrictions, and Macalino says it largely comes down to "traffic control, and then crowd control." 

Credit: Cherryl Macalino
Families can take pictures with spooky decorations like this one: perfect for a Halloween photo!

On Halloween day, families who have made a reservation with Mad Mandarins can take a stroll through a designated section of the orchard and pluck candy from the trees. 

"I really hope that the kids have fun," Macalino said. "You know, I just feel like we wanted to share…and this is something actually we were gonna do for our kids." 

Macalino said they've set up an intricate system using clothespins to make sure there's no "cross-contamination" between families. One group will go first, then Mad Mandarins staff will replace the picked candy and another group will be able to proceed. 

"It's like one-family-per-run is what we call it," Macalino said. 

The Mad Mandarins farm owner is excited for the big day, but stresses that people should make reservations a head of time and fast. Mad Mandarins might not be able to take walk-ins at all, or very few, due to the pandemic and wanting to keep the event crowd small. 

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