By Konstantine Fekos
CONNEAUT LAKE —
Phenomenal entertainment, half-ton pumpkins and food like you wouldn’t believe all spell out Pumpkin Fest to event committee members like entertainment co-chair Doris Henderson.
This fall festival, as Henderson will tell you, is on par with the volume and success of major local events like the Crawford County Fair and is expected to draw in crowds of 30,000 people or more from all over Pennsylvania as well as Ohio and even New York.
“Everything gets a little better every year,” said Henderson, who also serves as a representative of the Conneaut Lake Area Business Association. “And the bigger it gets, the more people want to be here every year.”
The 22nd annual Conneaut Lake Fall Pumpkin Fest, held at historic Conneaut Lake Park, is ripe and ready to open up Friday through Oct. 14, from 2 to 7 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
Admission is free for all ages, but there is a $5 parking fee for use of lots around the park facilities.
This singular event serves as a substantial economic surge to the Conneaut Lake area.
“We could generate over $2 million,” said Henderson. “It’s a real boost to the park.”
Revenue raised by the event goes to support Conneaut Area High School scholarships as well as area organizations and businesses.
For the highest success rate possible, committee members and trustees agree one thing is required: sunny days.
“We don’t need any bad weather like last year,” said Conneaut Lake Park Board of Trustees Director Jack Moyers, who has his eyes on the skies despite his excitement for the event. “We have more events and more vendors. This is designed to be a bigger and better show.”
Locals and tourists alike pack the park each year for three days of autumn activities, including the annual parade, park rides and the famous Giant Pumpkin Drop.
“We have two pumpkins, roughly 1,000 pounds,” said Henderson. “We have an ITC Crane lift them up as high as they can go and we drop them on a car.”
The Pumpkin Drop is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 13 and 4 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 14.
“People come from all around to see these half-ton pumpkins,” said Henderson. “I think it’s the highlight of the event.”
Barring minor repairs, most of the park’s rides, including the Blue Streak and miniature train, are planned to be up and running for the festival, according to Moyers.
In order to keep up with its yearly yield of festival foods, artwork, crafts and other attractions, the festival committee is expecting approximately 123 vendors.
As if these attractions weren’t enough to draw visitors across county and state lines, the committee also put together what could be the festival’s most extensive entertainment lineup to date.
Live musical entertainment will include local country singer Randy Alan, Pittsburgh soft-rock and country group Black Rock County, long-time festival performer Brett Allen Morgan and blue grass bands Country Blue and Crabapple Creek.
“It’s a really good family event,” said Henderson. “I think it’s going to be a really busy couple of days.”
Entertainers of the magical and minstrel variety will be strolling down the park’s midway throughout the weekend as well.
The Pumpkin Fest committee works to collect donation to help offset entertainment booking.
“We’ve had outstanding community support,” said Henderson. “Almost everyone we’ve called and asked to volunteer has chipped in at least a few hours.”
While the planning committee has only hit a few snags in putting together this all-encompassing event, there have been disappointments along the way.
“The most disappointing thing is that we didn’t receive enough applications for this year’s pageant,” Henderson said.
Out of more than 90 applications sent by the committee, only a handful were returned, leading to the event’s cancellation. Henderson, also the committee’s pageant organizer, hopes to bring the pageant back next year.
One part of the Pumpkin Fest, however, has remained a permanent fixture, rain or shine, year after year.
“The parade will have about 120 units, so it will be a little bit larger this year,” said parade committee member Georgie Griggs. “Last year, even in the rain, we had over 80 units and streetwise, we had about 5,000 people line up to watch.”
This parade’s theme matches the Pumpkin Fest’s overall homage to Conneaut Lake Park’s 120th Birthday and will feature units like the Zem Zems, clowns, marching bands, twirlers, floats, fire trucks and beauty queens, just to name a few.
Lineup starts at 8:15 a.m. with the parade at 10.
“The Zem Zems are usually the biggest draw,” said Griggs. “We’ll have a full squad, along with Miss Crawford County and area queens and princesses. We should have a lot of people.”
The parade route will run down Water Street, onto 2nd Street (Aldena Drive) and will disband at Fireman’s Beach, according to the parade committee.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can go
For for complete details and times of Pumpkin Fest events, go to pumpkinfest.conneautlake.com online.