October 4, 2010


Pumpkinfest marks start of fall

Hundreds attend to sample the sights and tastes of autumn

PumpkinBob Ellis/staff photographer
Elizabeth McCloy, 2, of Cortland, looks at a large 530-pound pumpkin on display Saturday at the Cortland Pumpkinfest.

Staff Reporter

For the hundreds who flocked this weekend to the 15th annual Pumpkinfest, the festivities are as much a reminder of old-fashioned family fun as they are a signal that autumn has settled in.
“We talk about it all week,” said Katrina Spicer of Cortlandville. “It’s sad in a way though because summer’s over, but the next season’s coming in.”
On Saturday, families and friends strolled through Courthouse Park in Cortland under clear skies and crisp autumn air to take in familiar sights such as crafts, baked goods, animals and a main draw — hayrides touring around nearby streets and all the pumpkins on display.
Spicer’s 2-year-old daughter Katrina was nearly dwarfed when she stood next to an immense pumpkin on display in a Cortland County Historical Society tent for passers-by to guess its weight.
Others stood by and tried to gauge its weight by either eyeing it a few moments or feeling it.
“The weight is almost always a surprise and most people under-guess,” volunteer Sally Horak said. “It’s definitely part of our theme and it’s an attraction especially for the kids who like to guess.”
Freeville farmer Matt VerSchneider provided the pumpkin. VerSchneider is in charge of weighing for the Biggest Pumpkin contest. The largest pumpkin in the annual Pumpkinfest contest, weighing 862 pounds, was entered by Matthew Short of Whitney Point.
The Pumpkinfest began when Cortland city officials met and decided the city did not have an event to call its own. Organizers say they try and deliver the same attractions each year, which attendees said suits them fine.
“It seems like it’s getting bigger every year to me,” Cortland resident Jodi Lucas said while holding her 2-year-old daughter. “I like it just the way it is.”
Jim Dempsey, who chairs the event, has said organizers are noticing more people coming from out of town in recent years.
Some of those in the Pumpkinfest crowd this year, such as Anu Connor of Chevy Chase, Md., came from out of town this weekend to visit family and relive fond memories.
Connor’s children Jayna, 5, and Riley, 3, were at their first Pumpkinfest this year.
“I was here when I was a kid and it’s got a great atmosphere,” Connor said. “It was hot in D.C. and it doesn’t feel like fall there yet, but it does here.”
Adding to the ambiance included a pumpkin-decorating contest from local students ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.
They’re good this year, there’s some new ones,” contest volunteer Lisa Hoeschele said.
Some of the pumpkins on display included a set of M&Ms, Pac-Man with ghosts trailing behind, and various cartoon characters. Student entries were broken up into four categories based on grade level. The Pac-Man pumpkin, designed by Cheyan Emery, took in first place in the grades five through six categories.


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