The Arboretum’s Pumpkin Festival was Pumpkin to Talk About

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Volunteer Cathy Kennedy helps Pumpkin Festival attendees make corn husk dolls. Kennedy has been volunteering at the Pumpkin Festival for the past five years. “I just love the gardens, and I think [the Pumpkin Festival] is a wonderful community event. We get thousands of people who come and enjoy the gardens,” Kennedy said.

Adrita Talukder, Staff Writer

Hundreds of jack-o-lanterns lit up the Arboretum from October 11th to 12th with nearly 10,000 people attending the Penn State Arboretum’s Pumpkin Festival. This year marked the 9th annual Pumpkin Festival.

“The Pumpkin Festival started in 2011 when the director of horticulture at that time suggested that the Arboretum host a jack-o’-lantern contest like the ones that his father had organized back in Wisconsin when he was growing up,” Event and Marketing Coordinator Kathleen Reeder said. “The Arboretum’s director and the event and marketing coordinator realized that such a contest would help people to discover the botanic gardens, which had recently opened in the fall of 2009, and would foster a sense of community among students and residents alike.”

This year, the Pumpkin Festival featured a variety of activities, including the Jack-o’-Lantern Display, Corn Husk Doll Making, Pumpkin Decorating, Face Painting, and performances by the band Western Range and magician Ben Salinas. In addition to all the activities, there were many food vendors selling anything ranging from hot chocolate to sandwiches. 

With an average of 10,000 people attending the Pumpkin Festival annually, there’s no doubt that it’s a crowd favorite among the people of Centre County. But with such a large number of attendees, there’s a lot of work that goes into putting such a large event together. “The most challenging part of ensuring that the festival will run smoothly is soliciting enough volunteers to assist in performing all of the duties,” Reeder said. “The most challenging part of managing the event once it is underway is handling issues related to inclement weather or unusually high attendance.”

But it’s not all hard work. “One of the most enjoyable parts of planning the festival is sharing ideas for improvements in all categories, but especially discussing new family-friendly activities, entertainment, and displays to add,” Reeder said.

The Pumpkin Festival has been a staple of fall in State College for the past nine years now. It provides an opportunity for the community to connect and enjoy the Arboretum’s gardens through something as simple as pumpkin carving. “The contest that is the festival’s main attraction offers the opportunity to participate in the creative art of jack-o’-lantern carving, and to share with families and friends the excitement of viewing hundreds of jack-o’-lanterns in one place,” Reeder said.

From the lighted jack-o-lantern display to performances by Texas Swing bands and magicians, the Pumpkin Festival has something to offer for everyone. “I’ve been going to the pumpkin festival for two years now and it gets better and better every year,” sophomore Ella Corson said. “I love that there are so many different age groups who get to express their creativity through pumpkins! My favorite part is when it’s dark out and all of the pumpkins are lit up; it’s truly magical.”

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