The first time I saw it I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there it was, right in the middle of downtown Norwich.
It must have been 35, maybe 40 feet tall and a hundred feet wide at the base. Its triangular shape obscured the view of the County Courthouse; it was a sight to behold. The ‘it’ I’m referring to was the scaffolding holding hundreds of candle-lit pumpkins at the first Norwich Pumpkin Festival.
It is hard to believe that was nearly 20 years ago. It’s harder to believe this year might be the last Pumpkin Festival. This has been the premier, free, autumn event that a generation of youth have enjoyed and grew up attending. To say this has been a labor of love for the festival volunteer organizers would be a huge understatement.
The small volunteer committee and a few melded families have been the backbone of “Pumpkin Fest” planning since 1999. In its two decades, the festival has been a Halloween season stable having endured date changes, rainy weekends – even a snowy weekend – and in 2008, the death of one of the founders, loved-by-all, Joe Lorimer.
The people behind the scenes will continue to make autumn magic for thousands of spectators at least one more time the last weekend of October - the 26th and 27th. You can expect huge pumpkins, scarecrows, corn stalks, music, and all the great events from the past––and probably a bit more as the organizers splurge to celebrate a job well done.
This year’s festival coordinator, Tyler Oliver, said in a recent interview the Pumpkin Festival committee is hoping another organization will carry on the tradition in 2019 and beyond. Quoting Tyler’s well-chosen words; “someone needs to step up” and take the reins.
After nearly two decades of year-round planning, you folks certainly rate a rest and a well-deserved pat on the back. You also deserve someone who will continue with what you started.
There must be some community group that is up to this task. For criminy sakes, the heavy-lifting has already been done and the current festival planners are leaving behind some cash to help get the successors started. The next group only needs the commitment, some new ideas and the energy to reinvigorate this great attraction.
Is there something you thought would be a great Pumpkin Fest addition? Possibly you always thought there should be a haunted house; maybe a collaboration with the Colonia theater? Well now’s your time to shine, because this festival is ready for the picking.
There are other Halloween themed events across the state, many of them located at apple orchards or pumpkin patches and charge admission because they’re in business. Our open-air Pumpkin Festival has always had free admission and many of the attractions were also free. It would be a shame to see this disappear.
While the Pumpkin Festival seeks someone to carry on the ritual, a new tradition is just beginning at 162 Kilroy Road in Oxford. The Peila View Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch is a family run, family fun attraction near the intersection of Kilroy Rd and County Road 27. Judging by the aerial view, it looks like there are more than five acres of a corn maze along with animals, a pumpkin patch, and a “cow train” kid’s ride just waiting to make family memories. A corn maze is something Chenango County has needed for quite some time, and I hope the corn maze remains as long as the Pumpkin Festival, albeit with an understandable admission fee.
And speaking of families with the Halloween spirit, the Rogers Family Haunted Hill on Hopkins-Crandall Rd in Plymouth is something everyone should experience––well, maybe not the faint of heart or small children. This year the Rogers family will present their creepy efforts to the public on Friday and Saturday, October 19th and 20th. Your wait on the side of the road will probably include real screams from the visitors in the woods ahead of you adding to the apprehension. This is the perfect place for a first date, particularly if you need an excuse for an easily explained hug. Again, check for the admission fee.
Try to take advantage of these attractions. Autumn is the time of year we get our last chance at organized outdoor activities. Before you know it – unless you ski or have a snowmobile – your outdoor fun will be shoveling snow and falling on your ice.