Pumpkin derby

Children line up to watch their pumpkins compete in the pumpkin derby at last year's Pumpkin Block Party in Meadville.

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere.

Residents gathering near the corner of South Main and Poplar streets Saturday may be forgiven if they begin to feel a little like Linus van Pelt on Halloween. Unlike the eternally waiting “Peanuts” character, they won’t have to miss out on trick-or-treating when they visit the makeshift pumpkin patch they’ll find "growing" out of the southwest corner of the intersection.

The third annual Pumpkin Block Party will offer visitors free food, games and music from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday at and around Bish Automotive Tire and Service Center, 324 Poplar St.

Oh, and the free event will offer one other thing as well — pumpkins. Lots and lots of pumpkins. A nearly-literal pumpkin patch of pumpkins. A veritable pumpkin-topia. In short, gourds galore.

Bring your kids so they can paint one of the world’s favorite pieces of orange vegetation not named for its color. Stay so that when the paint dries, the kids of all ages can participate in the return of the Pumpkin Derby — halfway between pinewood derby and soapbox derby, the Pumpkin Derby features small carts carrying painted pumpkins down a short downhill course with the speediest squashes advancing to the next round of racing.

“You have to paint your pumpkin and then you’re qualified to race,” said Dan Hunter, one of numerous local business owners and nonprofit organizations helping to organize the event. “Cart vehicles are provided — they have to carry the pumpkin in the race.”

If adults want to test their pumpkin-racing mettle against the young ones, that can be arranged as well, but the same rules still apply.

“If they want to paint one, they’re more than welcome,” Hunter said.

As in the past two versions of the Pumpkin Block Party, this year’s event will once again be noncommercial, Hunter said — as in nothing is for sale.

Pizza and other snacks will be provided — even freshly fried donuts while they last.

Games and crafts will be available as well.

Even costumes! Starting at noon, a “Costume Buffet” will be in operation. The free costume-making station will include ready-made costumes as well as all the fixings for making your Halloween vision a reality. Even experienced sewing machine operators will be on hand to give your costume that professional touch.

Oh, and pumpkins — free pumpkins for those who need them along with the materials to paint them.

Just how many pumpkins?

“Hopefully a ton,” Hunter said, the excitement in his voice making it difficult to discern whether he was being literal.

The Costume Buffet is new to the Pumpkin Block Party, though not new to Meadville. Started last year as the Meadville Community Costume Construction Party, it’s the effort of the Thankful Thursdays group.

“It’s going to be a couple of tables with a bunch of donated items,” said Thankful Thursdays volunteer John Hartnett, “and sewing machines manned by some lovely ladies. It’s going to be a gorgeous time.”

“The response was so awesome last year, it was hard to turn it down,” Hartnett said of the offer to team up with the Pumpkin Block Party. The combination of events, Hartnett said, is “a match made in heaven.”

Those who don’t need costumes are encouraged to empty out their closets — the Members Only jacket and leg warmers in your attic could make someone else’s Halloween a night to remember.

The party promises to be even bigger in its third iteration, according to Hunter, who encouraged people to come in costume.

“There’s going to be plenty of outlets for folks to have fun,” he said.

For those who prefer to celebrate autumn in a more competitive spirit, the Pumpkin Derby promises to put a spooky jack-o-lantern smile on their faces. Hartnett, for one, was already looking forward to it. Unlike Linus, who put his faith in the Great Pumpkin each year, despite no-show after no-show, when it comes to the Pumpkin Derby, Hartnett plans to put his trust in the heavy pumpkin.

“Oh, you know it,” he said. “I’ve got a lead pumpkin on hand.” 

Mike Crowley can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at mcrowley@meadvilletribune.com.

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