Squash. Jack-O-Lantern. Ornamental gourd. Potimarron. Calabaza. Whatever you want to call them —and HerbaZest has a lot of names depending on the country! — here in the States, when pumpkins appear, it’s an unmistakable sign that fall is here.
While you could just go to your local grocery store and get yourself one of those big orange fruits — and yes, it is a fruit since it starts from a seed, says Produce for Better Health — it’s way more fun to go to a pumpkin festival and enjoy all the related activities that are taking place.
Not sure where they are? We’ve compiled a list of some that are taking place this fall throughout the U.S. But check your area or where you’re traveling for lesser-known— but just as much fun — events!
Dates:9/16 to 11/5/23
The Great Pumpkin Festival has no shortage of entertainment. Of course, there are standard ones like a tractor hayride and both a corn maze and hay maze. But the festival also features a Dancing Robot Show, Vortex Tunnel, Pedal and Touring Cars, Pig Racing and Canine Stars Stunt Dog Show—just to name a few and all included in the ticket price.
Other activities include 12 carnival rides, Gem Mining, and Wine Tasting, and to satisfy your hunger, kettle corn, apple cider donuts, and a diverse selection from food vendors. For a schedule of events and more details, visit the website.
Dates: 9/30/23 to 10/9/23
The 2023 Damariscotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta starts September 30 and runs until October 9. Activities include Pumpkinboat Building, a parade with music, fun, and frivolity, a Pumpkin Dessert Contest with samples available to purchase, a Pumpkin Derby (“soapbox-styled” pumpkin-car race), a pie-eating contest (of course!), and the Regatta when giant gourd steered by captains either paddling or powered by “wicked nice motors” participate in a series of races on the Damariscotta River
And don’t miss the display of dozens of “Atlantic Giant” pumpkins in downtown Damariscotta and Newcastle that have been decorated by local Maine artists. According to the website, each pumpkin comes with a story about the grower, the business that helped sponsor the festival, and the artist who brings it to creative life. More on the festival website.
One of America’s most iconic festivals celebrates its 51st birthday and the great gourd with a two-day festival of all things pumpkin. The kickoff to the festival is the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off on October 9, with pumpkins weighing more than 1,000 pounds, which also highlights the importance of agriculture to the economy of San Mateo County.
Events include live music on stage and street, displays from 250 of America’s top artists and craftmakers, a costume contest and pie eating contests, and The Great Pumpkin Run, from a 1-mile Kids Run to a Half Marathon. Local community service organizations will be serving homestyle foods and beverages such as pumpkin milkshakes, Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, and 10th Street Pumpkin Smash.
The festival was created by the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee to support a wide range of community and civic projects. Be sure to check out the Pumpkin Festival Tips to make your visit more enjoyable, and visit the website for more details.
The Pumpkin Show in Circleville has been taking place since 1903 and, according to recent figures, attracts more than 400,000 visitors. So, what do people come to see? The Little Miss Pumpkin and Miss Pumpkin Show Parades, a Pet Parade, and Baby Parade, for starters, as well as events such as Decorated Golf Cart Judging, Country Line Dancing, Pumpkin Show Community Band Concert, and Big Wheel Race, more than 25 amusement rides and over 300 food booths, games and craft vendors.
And, of course, pumpkins—really big pumpkins—with the top three 2022 entrants weighing in at 1,347, 1,438, and more than 1,837 pounds. And if you still haven’t had enough pumpkin, check out the six-foot in diameter pumpkin pie baked by Lindsey’s Bakery, which ultimately becomes a treat for area hogs.
The opening ceremonies are at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, with activities beginning at 10:00 a.m. for the balance of the show. While the streets are decorated for the event, the biggest showpiece is the one-million-gallon Pumpkin Water Tower, repainted in 1997 to look like a pumpkin, complete with a stem. For more information, visit the website.
Think pumpkins are just for decoration? Then you need to attend the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta and see what else those big orange gourds can do! Started in 2004 by the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers, the Regatta features a series of races, with costumed characters inside giant pumpkins vying for the winning time. Other activities include a 5K Regatta Run/Walk, a giant pumpkin weigh-off and the Regatta festival. The free event starts at 10 a.m. and runs until 4 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. For more details, visit the website.
Sycamore Pumpkin Festival— Sycamore IL
With a little tweaking, the saying “From tiny acorns, great oaks grow” would fit the Sycamore Pumpkin Festival. It began in 1956 when Wally Thurow (aka “Mr. Pumpkin”) put a few decorated pumpkins on his front lawn for Halloween. Once the Sycamore Lions Club got involved in 1962, the festival became an official celebration in Sycamore, providing not only a fun time for residents and visitors but also a way for DeKalb County not-for-profit organizations to participate in fundraising activities, community education, and enrichment.
Voted Among Chicago & Illinois’ Best Festivals and Fairs by Travel Mag, it’s five days of fun events, including a carnival, Historic Homes Tour, a Pumpkin 4-Person Golf Scramble, and 10K Pumpkin Run, not to mention the Pumpkin Festival Parade. For more details, visit the website.
Have you ever seen a 34-foot-tall jack-o’-lantern display? If not, then it’s worth a trip to the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival, where it’s one of the attractions. There are lots of exciting activities taking place as well, from the Great New England Craft & Artisan Show to the Runaway Pumpkin 5k/10k Run/Walk (benefiting the WOW Trail) to a pie-eating contest. You can also buy tickets to enjoy a performance by Amy Grant at the Colonial Theatre. These are just some of the fun happenings that draw more than 40,000 visitors each year to the town. For more information, visit the website.