The Village of Caledonia is preparing for their 16th Annual Pumpkin Fest on Oct. 14 and are expecting even bigger crowds than last year.
Caledonia Pumpkin Fest Committee Member Nina Gilliam said they have made several changes to this year’s pumpkin fest to accommodate larger crowds.
“Each year the pumpkin fest grows and we always try to hash out better ways to make it a great experience,” said Gilliam. “We really try to have things for all ages and it’s a passion for us to have things for the kids. Everybody is trying to make money off of events like this and we don’t make a dime.”
Gilliam said they are set on making sure there are free things for kids, so no matter what you can afford, the kids can come. She said they create free things for the kids and that’s what matters most to them.
“Most things for kids at this pumpkin fest are free and that is becoming a rare thing,” explained Gilliam. “We are staying committed to that and people may think we are crazy, but we feel it’s very important.”
Gilliam said they will always have the pumpkin pie-eating contest because people love that. They are still doing all the kids games, seed spitting, bubble gum blowing, money in the hay stack and they have added pumpkin rolling this year.
“There will be inflatables, pony rides, games and a petting zoo,” said Gilliam. “There will be free pumpkin crafting at the Masonic Lodge again this year and they have anticipated the crowds this year. Last year they ran out of supplies in an hour because they didn’t know what to expect.”
Another fun things for the youth to do with their parents is hunt for Rock Art. Gilliam said they are hiding Rock Art all around and people who find them will get a special prize or a discount. Those who find a rock are to take it to the information booth to get a ticket for what you have won.
“We are really spreading things out and have added a lot of new things this year we are excited about,” Gilliam said. “The photo booth is going to be a fun thing and it’s also a fundraiser for our sidewalks. There will be a slight charge for it and we have a sponsor for it. Last year we did the bull ride as a fundraiser and this year it’s the photo booth.”
Gilliam said they are still working on their sidewalks. It’s a little village so it’s hard for them to get a 50/50 grant. She added they have to really raise money for it.
“We also have a tractor pull this year and the corn maze planted a huge pumpkin patch,” said Gilliam. “We are excited about that because they have a ton of pick-your-own pumpkins. They will do hayrides from the pumpkin fest to the pumpkin patch.”
Gilliam said they will have a Real Mountain Men Encampment.
“The street is named after Andrew Henry, the man who was with Hugh Glass, as portrayed in the movie, 'The Revenant,'” said Gilliam. “The original house in town, which was a log cabin, but has been built around since, was once a fur trading store and Henry had bought that house. That is why they are coming to town and they are very authentic.”
Gilliam said the group have horses, tents, certain foods and they will be set up behind the barn during the festival. On the other side of the barn will be the Civil War camp and they are all coming to the barn dance that Friday evening.
“I can’t wait to see them all there because last year the Civil War people came in those big dresses from that time period,” said Gilliam. “The barn dance is from 6 to 9 p.m. with great country music, food and free pumpkin treats after judging the Pumpkin Recipe Contest. Winners of the recipe contest will receive $100 for first, $75 for second and $50 for third place.”
Gilliam said the pumpkin fest is getting so big they have done some problem-solving since last year. Parking has always been a problem and they have reached out to local people who have fields.
“There are a lot of places close to town that people can park in, so they are opening up their fields and we will have a lot more shuttles,” said Gilliam. “We will have 50 times more parking because of that.”
Another issue they have hashed out is people who are shuttling and want to shop may have a lot of packages and things. They decided to create a package center/information booth at the historic gas station next to the Masonic Hall.
“If you buy a bunch of things that you don’t want to carry around, you can take them to the package center and when you’re done for the day, ride the shuttle back to your car and pull up to the package center and pick up your items,” said Gilliam. “It’s that easy.”
Gilliam said those were two of the bigger things they tried to fix and they also were able to get Wi-Fi for the vendors so they can take credit cards sales. Big River Broadband has donated their services for the event.
The morning will start off with a parade through town at 10 a.m. with lineup beginning at 9 a.m. This year’s theme is “Fall Harvest.” Each year they change the theme, but have brought it back to what the festival is all about.
Gilliam said they will also be selling the pumpkin fest T-shirts again this year and have tripled their order since they were in such high demand last year. They will be on sale at the package center/information booth for less than $20.
The Caledonia Fire Department will once again have their barbeque fundraiser in the barn during the event. Gilliam said it’s their biggest fundraiser of the year and you get a lot of food for a decent price.
“We have also doubled our food vendors this year because so many of them sold out before the event was even over,” said Gilliam. “There will be a variety of foods to choose from. We are also spreading out the craft vendors this year and they will be all through town.”
Visit the Caledonia Pumpkin Festival Facebook page for more information and updates on the festival.