In 15 short years, Carroll County has gone from producing virtually no pumpkins to being one of the largest producers of the vegetable on the East Coast. To celebrate the area’s booming crop, Carroll County will host its inaugural Pumpkin Festival on October 19.
A wide range of events and activities will be held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. that day on the retail side of the Southwest Virginia Farmers’ Market, including pumpkin carving, hayrides, pumpkin painting, music, pumpkin judging, food, family games, pumpkin cannons, a corn maze, and apple butter making at the Cannery.
“It goes back to the Blue Ridge farm experience of trying to promote agritourism as a whole in the county. The Carroll County Agricultural Fair is involved, our Farm to Fork initiative is involved and it includes the Pumpkin Festival,” said Amanda Bourne, Assistant Director of Tourism for Carroll County. “We are a little challenged in Carroll with not many festivals. We are one of leading pumpkin producers in the state so we felt like a pumpkin festival was a good fit for us.”
Admission will be free to the festival, which will feature several musicians throughout the day, including local banjo guru Stevie Barr. The Pumpkin Festival will also feature several events that have proven to be crowd pleasers in Carroll County, such as the Corn Maze that is set up annually during the Carroll County Agricultural Fair. Some events, such as the corn maze and hayrides, will include a charge.
“Some events will have charges such as the hayrides. The 4-H will be collecting money for that, and there are some non-profit organizations partnering with us that will be a natural fit and they will be taking money back to their clubs and organizations,” Bourne said. “Relay for Life will be doing the food, and several other stakeholders in agriculture will be involved such as Farm Bureau.”
The corn maze will be at the same location as during the Ag Fair. Other activities will be incorporated such as S’mores and story times at the corn maze, Bourne said. Hot chocolate figures to be a hit during the Pumpkin Festival, especially if the trend of cooler weather continues.
The pumpkin cannon also figures to be a highlight. Bourne said the Carroll County Maintenance Department is finalizing the cannon, which is expected to shoot cannons at least 1,200 feet. Anyone will be able to purchase a pumpkin, she said, and someone will assist in the loading and firing of the cannon. According to Sam McClendon, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, there will also be a couple of slingshots, complete with slingshot targets, frames and bungee cords for shooting smaller pumpkins at a target.
Demonstrations of apple butter making will also be going on throughout the event. Brady’s Produce will make its annual batch of apple butter inside the Carroll County Cannery to show the commercial process involved in apple butter making, while a church group is scheduled to make apple butter in a kettle over a fire to demonstrate the traditional method of making apple butter. Both products will be available for sale.
“Our thought was that is a good fall food and people love apple butter, but we are also trying to work on heightening the awareness of the cannery being available,” Bourne said.
The hope is to educate the public about the Carroll County Cannery, one of only three in operation in the state of Virginia.
“It really is a like a jewel here. There is a certain group of people who don’t know it is there, and there is probably also a group that is interested but intimidated by the process,” Bourne said. “We want them to see that Jerry is a county employee certified in the process. He can walk them through it. You don’t have to know anything about food preservation, so we are using this as a way to educate folks about the cannery.”
There will be plenty of activities for kids of all ages at the Pumpkin Festival. There will be several toddler related games as well as games even teenagers can enjoy, Bourne said. Bouncy houses, inflatable slides, a corn pit, obstacle course, and peddle tractors are just some of the fun activities that will be available.
Additionally, there will be six artisan demonstrators in front of the Carroll County Visitors’ Center. Bourne said many people don’t realize the inside of the Visitors’ Center features an artisan gallery with work representing more than 60 artisans from the area.
“So we thought if we set up artisans outside, they could demonstrate their goods and people could also see some of the local talent on display,” Bourne said.
Log on to PumpkinFestivalVA.com for more information about The Pumpkin Festival.