Penitentiary pumpkins brighten students' day

Hundreds of pumpkins raised by inmates have been donated to local schools.

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Students in Maestra Valencia's second-grade class at Blue Ridge Elementary School, enjoy pumpkins grown by inmates at the Washington State Penitentiary.

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Elias Alonso works to move a particularly large gourd along the lawn.

WALLA WALLA -- A big group of escapees from Washington State Penitentiary showed up at a local school recently and students enthusiastically embraced every one of them.

The prison group was even appropriately attired in bright orange, which is normal considering they were all pumpkins.

The pumpkins, more than 500 in all, were donated to preschool through fifth-grade students at Blue Ridge Elementary School on Friday. The gourds were among about 3,500 raised in the prison's pumpkin patch by inmates and sent out to local schools this year.

The pumpkins ranged in size from small to extra-large, which meant that while some students were able to carry theirs, others rolled and wrestled their prizes along the ground, laughing all the way.

"The kids loved it," said Shiloh Akari, a student helper at the school who took pictures of the event. "It was just an awesome sight."

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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