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Fitting weather for a fall event

It might have been a little cold and damp for Caledonia’s 17th Annual Pumpkin Fest, but the taste of typical fall weather didn’t appear to keep anyone away from the festivities in the Washington County town of less than 150 population that sees an influx of thousands of guests each year.

This year’s theme was “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.”

Caledonia Pumpkin Fest Committee Member Nina Gilliam said she was happy when she discovered her concerns about the cool snap in the weather negatively affecting turnout turned out to be unfounded.

“We were pleasantly surprised that the rain and the cold did not keep them away from Pumpkin Fest,” she said. “We’ve had vendors say they were surprised because they had been to other events where rain and 45 degrees keeps the crowds away.

“This is the first year that we’ve had 45 degree weather,” she said. “Every year it’s been either in the 70s or 80s. It felt like fall and it just didn’t stop them! They were like, ‘It’s fall and fall’s here’ and they got out their warm jackets and they came and had fun and we were really happy.

“We were asking customers, ‘Are you cold?’ and they were like, ‘Oh, it’s OK, we didn’t want to miss it’ and ‘It’s all good.’ Everybody was in a really good mood and they were having a lot of fun. We were glad that they all came and enjoyed themselves.”

Gilliam noted that this year’s festival had 130 vendors.

“We had a lot that we just had to turn away as well because they know the crowds that Pumpkin Fest draws, so they want to be a part of something that brings out that kind of numbers,” she said. “It’s a very family-oriented event. It’s something that in this day and age when people need to unplug, you can get unplugged and have fun with your family.

“There were a lot of free activities for the kids. Other than buying some food and merchandise, you can basically have a fun day for free, so it’s something we believe in. We really feel that everyone should be able to come and enjoy themselves whether they can afford to spend money or not.”

Saturday morning of the Pumpkin Fest began with the parade.

“We had Charlie Brown and Snoopy in a convertible,” she said. “The parade normally runs from 20-30 minutes and people just come and decorate it. It was amazing. The floats were amazing. We had the Clydesdales, of course, from Belgrade State Bank.

“The streets are lined up for half-a-mile. On Main Street we block off the parking so that it’s safe for the families to walk. We had five shuttles that ran continuously every 15 minutes to fields and from the school and all different places all around town.”

Gilliam mentioned something begun at this year’s Pumpkin Fest that will continue to be featured at upcoming town events — including the combination Vintage Market and Celtic Festival being held in May to mark the 200th anniversary of the town.

“We started a package pick-up service,” she said. “It’s a valet service where if you brought the shuttle in, you didn’t have to bring all your packages on the shuttle and ride back to your car. You can get your car and pull up and they’ll load the packages for you. We started this to make it more convenient for people shopping.”

Without taking much of a break, the Pumpkin Fest Committee will soon begin planning the 2019 event.

“We’re planning for next year … what we can do better,” Gilliam said. “I think that’s why it’s grown from year to year. We always have a meeting right after the Pumpkin Fest. We do problem solving. We always think of what we could do or add so it stays fresh. There’s always the things that you enjoy year-to-year, but we will add something so that when you come, there’s always something new to experience.”

Gilliam is rightfully proud that a small town like Caledonia can work in unity to provide an event of such magnitude like Pumpkin Fest each year.

“We were pleasantly surprised that the rain and the cold did not keep them away from Pumpkin Fest.” Nina Gilliam, Pumpkin Fest Committee

This young lady is holding her own on a mechanical bull at Caledonia's Pumpkin Fest held Saturday. There were plenty of activities to take part in, vendors selling their wares, and lots of good food to eat at the popular annual event.

This young lady is holding her own on a mechanical bull at Caledonia’s Pumpkin Fest held Saturday. There were plenty of activities to take part in, vendors selling their wares, and lots of good food to eat at the popular annual event.

Despite temperatures in the 40s and an occasional misty rain, the crowds came out as usual last weekend for Caledonia's 17th Annual Pumpkin Fest.

Despite temperatures in the 40s and an occasional misty rain, the crowds came out as usual last weekend for Caledonia’s 17th Annual Pumpkin Fest.

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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