Pumpkins are the kings of autumn. The hardy fruit is sought after as fall decorations to celebrate the autumn harvest, Halloween and Thanksgiving. Besides its decorative appeal, pumpkins have a distinct flavor that can be turned into, cakes, breads, muffins and cookies, not to mention pumpkin pie.
It makes sense then that pumpkins are the guests of honor at festivals and fall celebrations across the United States. Whether you live in the Midwest, the South, or the Northeast, pumpkin festivals abound. Residents and visitors alike flock to Morton, Illinois, the Pumpkin Capital of the world, to attend the annual Pumpkin Festival.
Morton is home to the Nestle/Carnation processing plant where 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin is processed and packaged. Since 1967 the community has joined forces to stage a party for the great pumpkin.
Held in September, festivities begin with the selection of a Pumpkin Princess and continues with a carnival like atmosphere throughout the weekend
In addition to awards for the heaviest pumpkin, Morton also offers contests for the smallest pumpkin, decorated pumpkins and a punkin’ chuckin’ contest.
Food choices center around the pumpkin theme and include pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pies and pumpkin ice cream. Craft booths and carnival rides round out the festival.
In Circleville, Ohio, The Pumpkin reigns supreme during the annual fall festival that begins on the third Wednesday of October. Like Morton, the celebration kicks off with the selection of a festival Pumpkin Queen and Little Miss Pumpkin Queen.
Daily parades highlight the four day celebration, billed as Ohio’s oldest Pumpkin Festival which started in1903. Parade themes change from day to day and include a parade featuring marching bands like the Ohio State Marching Band , a kiddie parade and a beauty queen parade.
Keene, New Hampshire has been hosting its Pumpkin Festival since 1991. The highlight of the two day event is the lighting of jack-o-laterns displayed along city streets. When the festival started, citizens lit a mere 600 carved pumpkins set around the town square.
Now, more than 25,000 pumpkins line the streets of Keene, waiting for sunset and the lighting of the candles tucked inside. Each year, residents try to beat the number of pumpkins lit the previous year.
After the lighting of the pumpkins, visitors and residents sit back and wait for the official count for the number of candles lighted. The evening wraps-up with an impressive fireworks display.
Each fall, Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta hosts a pumpkin celebration. For the past eight years the festival has been providing entertainment for young and old alike. The event is held at the theme park every weekend in October. It features a children’s trick-or-treat scavenger hunt along with a dress-your-own scarecrow for youngsters and a giant pumpkin puppet parade. The event offers a variety of pumpkin and autumn activities, but admission to the park is pricy. Check rates before you pack-up the car and head to Stone Mountain.
Pumpkins symbolize the arrival of autumn. They are heralded as heroes at festivals around the United States. Compete. Eat and enjoy the fall harvest.