By Konstantine Fekos
CONNEAUT LAKE —
Organizers of the 23rd annual Pumpkin Fest boast an event as big as, well, a pumpkin. Two roughly 1,000-pound pumpkins will once again be dropped by crane onto an automobile to be more exact.
While the three-day fall festival grows bigger each year, the Giant Pumpkin Drop remains one of its most famous attractions, according to Doris Henderson, entertainment coordinator.
Pumpkins are scheduled to be dropped Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m.
“Everybody, at some point in their life, should see a pumpkin dropped on something. It’s really neat,” Saegertown farmer and giant pumpkin grower Quinn Werner said.
Werner said he’s been supplying the Pumpkin Fest with giant pumpkins for at least the last eight years. This year his pumpkins weigh in at approximately 1,254 and 1,331 pounds.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I can’t believe the amount of people they get. Some people drive around for miles to come see them dropped.”
Giant produce isn’t the only thing that brings an interstate crowd, however.
Rain or shine, the Pumpkin Fest draws tens of thousands of visitors to Conneaut Lake Park annually, according to Henderson, who expects this year’s extended hours to add even more enjoyment.
“I think we’ll have 35,000 people if this is a nice weekend,” Henderson said. “We’ll have nonstop entertainment from (Saturday to Sunday) every hour on three stages.”
Entertainment includes bands, magic acts and midway minstrel performances.
Park rides and concessions will be operational as well, according to Jack Moyers, chairman of the Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park.
“We’re expecting good weather and hoping for a good turnout,” he said. “We want people to come out and enjoy the fall days we’re having here.”
Other traditional events include the Pumpkin Fest parade, which lines up on Saturday at 8 a.m. and kicks off at 10, according to Bob Disko, Pumpkin Fest chairman and president of the Conneaut Lake Area Business Association, the event’s sponsor.
The parade includes various community groups and entries from the surrounding northwest Pennsylvania region, including floats, bands, drill teams, beauty queens, fire trucks, clowns, Zem Zems and more.
New this year is a silent auction expected to feature original local artworks and signed pictures from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates.
The scholarship auction will return to raise money for Conneaut Area Senior High School scholarships, Henderson said.
This year’s event has already attracted close to 150 vendors, according to Joan Kozlowsky, vendor coordinator.
“We have all sorts of good food coming in; these vendors are top notch,” she said. “We also have a wide variety of local artisans, crafters, homeshow people, photographers and more.”
Overlapping with Pumpkin Fest is the Conneaut Lake Heritage Bluegrass and Arts Festival, which takes place Friday from 5:30 to 11 p.m. at Elizabeth’s Restaurant at the Hotel Conneaut.
The arts festival includes a free concert with several music groups. Proceeds benefit the Marquette Hospice House, according to Henderson.
Vendors and crafters will also be in attendance, as well as representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Health, according to organizers.
“They’ll have free flu shots for under or uninsured people and free pneumonia shots for anyone over 65,” Henderson said.
It takes the dedication of at least 50 hard-working volunteers to operate Pumpkin Fest smoothly, according to Disko, who is thankful for their contributions.
You can go
The 23rd annual Conneaut Lake Fall Pumpkin Fest is today from 2 to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. Parking is $5 per vehicle. Parking proceeds support the FFA of Conneaut Area Senior High School. More information: Visit pumpkinfest.conneautlake.com.