As the weather cools and the leaves begin to change, it's that time of year again for Pumpkin Fest.
Now in its 29th year, the Fall Pumpkin Fest returns to the Conneaut Lake area for a weekend of crafts, food, entertainment and fun.
Festivities are from 2 to 7 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 to 5 Sunday at Conneaut Lake Park.
Festival Chairperson Becky Leonard said she anticipated 20,000 to 25,000 people will travel to the Conneaut Lake area for this year's event. Additionally, the event earns funds for the Conneaut Lake Area Business Association, which supports small businesses in the Conneaut Lake area.
One of the biggest events of Pumpkin Fest is the parade, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday through downtown Conneaut Lake. Despite rainy weather, the parade had about 120 entries last year, according to organizer Pat McGee.
The route begins at Conneaut Lake Elementary School, heads down Water Street and turns at North 2nd Street toward Fireman's Beach.
This year's parade participants include the Conneaut Area Senior High School marching band, the QuarterTones quartet, floats, dogs, fire engines, Zem Zems from the Shriners on motorcycles and go-karts, draft horses and Miss Pumpkin Fest Lindsey Lee Hall, McGee said. Kiwanis Club member and former CASH industrial arts teacher Gary Raubenstrauch will serve as grand marshal.
"We get quite a lot of people," McGee said. "It's amazing. We're praying for no rain."
Something new this year is a pumpkin trebuchet, or catapult, on the beach at Conneaut Lake Park. The trebuchet, named "The Iron Lever," will launch a pumpkin 400 to 500 feet every 15 minutes from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
The pumpkin drops return to cause more destruction at 5 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday. Traditionally, a giant pumpkin is dropped from a crane onto a car. While Sunday's drop will once again be on a car, Saturday's pumpkin will be dropped onto a semi truck, McGee said.
Approximately 145 crafters, artisans and home show vendors will be on site as well as many performers. Michael Christopher performs at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the front stage near the main entrance.
Chris Denim starts things off at 11 a.m. Saturday on the second stage behind the log cabin at the park. This is the "grass" stage. Group Encore follows at 1 p.m., and then it's Brett Allen Morgan at 3 and acoustic group Chuck Thorpe and Friends at 5.
At the front stage on Saturday, Christian music begins at 11 a.m. That's followed by Elvis impersonator Jim Felix at 1 p.m., The Gunslingers at 3 and The BellAires at 5.
Felix, yet to leave the building, will perform again at noon Sunday at the grass stage, and Double Vision band follows at 2 p.m. At the front stage, Juvenile Characteristics performs at 1, and the band Ruckus will close out the festival, starting at 3.
Throughout Saturday and Sunday, Unicycle Sam and Squeeze the Clown will also entertain throughout the park.
The scholarship raffle is also returning with more than 50 gift baskets. Money raised leads to scholarships for CASH students. In 2018, the scholarships were presented to four seniors totaling $4,750.
For those with a competitive spirit, a cow milking contest is at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, and a pizza eating contest is at 2 p.m. Sunday. Proceeds from the cow milking contest will go toward the fight against multiple sclerosis. If that wasn't enough, there are also 20 food vendors.
A pumpkin painting tent will also be available for kids to be creative. Pumpkins will be judged at 6 p.m. Saturday and 3:30 Sunday.
Volunteers for Conneaut Lake Park will also sell 2020 calendars at Pumpkin Fest for $20. The sale of the calendars, which feature the park, raise funds to keep up the many flower areas and hanging baskets around the park, according to Joan Kozlowsky, park board member and former chair of the festival. She also said the volunteers have continued to repaint benches and buildings throughout the park.
"The volunteers buy them, plant them and water them all year long," Kozlowsky said of flowers throughout the park. "It's a very expensive hobby for them. We take donations, but they need more money for the beautification of the park."
The Conneaut Lake Area Business Association started the festival nearly 30 years ago to "extend the season," Kozlowsky said, noting many part-time residents from Pittsburgh or Youngstown Ohio, tend to leave when the school year begins. She said the festival was originally in downtown Conneaut Lake but grew so large the park was the only area facility big enough to hold it.
"It's not only an event for the park — it's an event for the whole community," Kozlowsky said.
Leonard said she hoped visitors would have fun and want to come back to the park next summer. She also mentioned how the crowds fill up the town throughout the festival and that it takes a whole year to put the event together as some vendors register for next year before the current festival is even finished.
"Every hotel is full," Leonard said. "The restaurants are all packed. My vendors are going out to buy supplies when they run out. It’s a big impact in the county."
Admission to the festival is free, but there is a $5 charge for parking.
Amusement rides will be running, and ride wristbands are $10.
Tyler Dague can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at email@example.com.