Fall Pumpkin Festivals

Carve up some family fun at these festive pumpkin parties across the country.

Fall brings colorful leaves, crisp nights and Daylight Saving Time. But for many, the best time of the season is the weeks leading up to Halloween. Trick-or-treating, costumes and candy are just part of the fun. Several festivals celebrate the spooky season with that orange icon of fall, the pumpkin. Grab your knife and a big gourd and you’ll be ready to go.

Anamosa, Iowa, Oct. 4 and 5

The 20th Annual Anamosa Pumpkinfest is known for its giant pumpkin weigh-off. Last year’s winning pumpkin was 1,662 pounds! In addition to this event, there’s a 5K run, a daily pancake breakfast, a chili cook-off, Big Wheel races for the kids, games and rides. There’s even a drawing for pumpkin royalty for kids ages 4 to 8; winners get to ride in the Saturday parade. pumpkinfest.anamosachamber.org

Manchester, Vt., Oct. 18

Manchester holds the record for the most pumpkins carved simultaneously. In 2007, 214 pumpkins were carved during the 2nd Annual Pumpkin-Carving Festival. The city hopes to break the record this year and get at least 250 carved at once. For a $5 admission (which is being donated to a food pantry), you can enjoy the festival and register to carve a pumpkin; carving tools and pumpkin are provided. Other activities include pumpkin painting, pony rides, arts and crafts, food vendors and music. You can register online or by calling the Chamber of Commerce at 800-362-4144. Carvers must be at least 12 years old. www.vermontpumpkin.com

Canyonville, Ore., Oct. 18

The Canyonville Pumpkin & Music Celebration offers up all sorts of fun, with bake-offs, pie-eating contests, a car show, hay rides and, of course, a carved pumpkin contest. For this competition, bring your carved pumpkin to enter, or just bring one to be lit at dusk along with others. If pumpkins aren’t your medium, try entering the scarecrow contest instead. And if you like to tell or listen to stories, don’t miss the tall tale contest. www.canyonvillepumpkinfestival.com

Half Moon Bay, Calif., Oct. 18 and 19

One of the longest-running pumpkin-themed events, the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is now in its 37th year. The two-day festival is packed with activities each day, including a costume contest, a parade, pie-eating competitions, a carving contest, three stages of entertainment, a haunted house and a giant pumpkin weigh-off. This contest is a big deal as the winner takes home a prize of $6 per pound. Last year’s winner took home $9,144 for 1,524-pound pumpkin! The “art” part of the festival is represented by more than 250 artists and craft makers showcasing original work. www.miramarevents.com/pumpkinfest

Keene, N.H., Oct. 25

Keene has held its extravagant Pumpkin Festival since 1991. The somewhat humble beginnings of that first year with just 600 candlelit pumpkins, has grown into a pumpkinfest goliath, with almost 26,000 pumpkins in 2007. The festival has garnered eight Guinness World Records for the most carved pumpkins lit at once. The fest opens at 10 a.m., and crowds start pouring in. Vendors sell all manner of pumpkin-related goods, including food and crafts. A costume parade at noon officially kicks off the day. At 5 p.m., choose between a pumpkin seed-spitting competition and a pumpkin pie-eating contest. If you bring your own pumpkin, you’ll find areas set up for you to carve. After all the pumpkins are lit, fireworks end the day at 8:30 p.m. www.pumpkinfestival.org

Destinations: Half Moon Bay, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont

Themes: Family Travel

User Comments

Yummm! I'm going to eat pumpkin ice cream at the Half Moon Bay Festival! I love October...