Pumpkinfest explodes

Crowd still growing at downtown Turners Falls event

  • Recorder file photo<br/>Autumn Tarbox and brother Jack, at right, carve pumpkins with their uncle Bob Jandrue, of South Deerfield during last year’s Franklin County Pumpkinfest in Turners Falls.

    Recorder file photo
    Autumn Tarbox and brother Jack, at right, carve pumpkins with their uncle Bob Jandrue, of South Deerfield during last year’s Franklin County Pumpkinfest in Turners Falls. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Cecile Dakin,11, of Greenfield, carves a Jack-0-Lantern during Pumpkin Fest. Tables were set up for pumpkin carving , with 150 donated pumpkins from the Purrington Farm in Buckland.  <br/>

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    Cecile Dakin,11, of Greenfield, carves a Jack-0-Lantern during Pumpkin Fest. Tables were set up for pumpkin carving , with 150 donated pumpkins from the Purrington Farm in Buckland.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Karen Kelly,of Gill, lights Jack-O-Lanterns on Saturday evening during Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls .<br/>

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    Karen Kelly,of Gill, lights Jack-O-Lanterns on Saturday evening during Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls .
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder file photo<br/>Jae Roberge of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance for Pumpkinfest.

    Recorder file photo
    Jae Roberge of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance for Pumpkinfest. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Jae Roberge, of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance as onlookers at Saturday evening’s Pumpkin Fest are illuminated  by the glow .<br/>

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    Jae Roberge, of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance as onlookers at Saturday evening’s Pumpkin Fest are illuminated by the glow .
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>A sample of the many groups of  Jack-O-Lanterns on display on Saturday evening for this years Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls.<br/>

    Recorder/Geoff Bluh
    A sample of the many groups of Jack-O-Lanterns on display on Saturday evening for this years Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls.
    Purchase photo reprints »

  • Recorder file photo<br/>Autumn Tarbox and brother Jack, at right, carve pumpkins with their uncle Bob Jandrue, of South Deerfield during last year’s Franklin County Pumpkinfest in Turners Falls.
  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Cecile Dakin,11, of Greenfield, carves a Jack-0-Lantern during Pumpkin Fest. Tables were set up for pumpkin carving , with 150 donated pumpkins from the Purrington Farm in Buckland.  <br/>
  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Karen Kelly,of Gill, lights Jack-O-Lanterns on Saturday evening during Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls .<br/>
  • Recorder file photo<br/>Jae Roberge of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance for Pumpkinfest.
  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>Jae Roberge, of Turners Falls, with Infernal Theater, performs a fire dance as onlookers at Saturday evening’s Pumpkin Fest are illuminated  by the glow .<br/>
  • Recorder/Geoff Bluh<br/>A sample of the many groups of  Jack-O-Lanterns on display on Saturday evening for this years Pumpkin Fest in Turners Falls.<br/>

TURNERS FALLS — A fine fall day drew droves of people to the third annual Franklin County Pumpkinfest Saturday.

At 3:30 p.m., a half-hour into the festival, there were already thousands of people up and down Avenue A, seven blocks of which were blocked off for the festival. And the crowd size was impressive, given that a nearby New Hampshire town had its popular pumpkin festival the same night.

“I wasn’t at all concerned that the festival was the same day as Keene’s,” said organizer Michael Nelson. “Last year, we had an uncountable number of people.”

Nelson decided to go up against the long-running Keene festival, rather than go up against smaller gatherings. If he held it the weekend right before Halloween, he said, it would have to compete with Halloween parties at homes, in bars and elsewhere

Bill and Arlene Kilpatrick of Northfield decided to go to both Saturday’s pumpkin festivals.

“We went to Keene this morning; we live halfway between the two,” Bill Kilpatrick said.

About 12,000 people came to the 2011 Franklin County Pumpkinfest, according to an estimate by Montague police. Many, including Nelson, agreed that this year’s festival was even more well-attended.

“The festival has absolutely exploded,” said Jae Roberge, 28, of Turners Falls. “It’s huge; I think this year’s is the biggest yet.”

He’s been at every one, wowing crowds with local fire-dancing troupe Infernal Theater. This year, they were joined by Pyro Productions of Northampton.

Roberge was pulling double-duty, there as a vendor as well as performer. He sells homemade wire-wrapped jewelry.

He said the exposure has been great for both businesses. Roberge has been fire-dancing for about 10 years at festivals and shows.

Other downtown businesses enjoyed the exposure as well, including one that’s not even open yet.

“Hundreds of people have stopped by to check us out,” said Pam Tierney, owner of the soon-to-come Black Cow Burger Bar. The restaurant, in the former Equii’s Candy Store, still needs some work before it’s ready, but its dining room was together enough for passers-by to pop in and get a preview of the menu.

Though there was no shortage of people Saturday, there could have been a few more pumpkins.

The festival’s first year saw 1,391 jack-o’-lanterns, this year it was down to about 840, though volunteers at the registration booth think a few people with pumpkins may have slipped by without signing up. That’s still up from last year, when Tropical Storm Irene wiped out much of the pumpkin crop. In 2011, there were 734 registered pumpkins.

Those 840 pumpkins each earned their owners a chance to win some great prizes. New this year was a raffle just for pumpkin carvers. More than a dozen prizes, ranging from signed Red Sox baseballs, to gift certificates to local businesses, were up for grabs.

Also new this year was a haunted house in the vacant Greenfield Savings Bank branch on Avenue A, put on by Turners Falls River Culture.

People came from all over Saturday. A few Keene residents brought pumpkins across the border rather than going to their hometown festival, and a couple from San Diego dropped in while visiting family in the area.

One couple even came all the way from South Africa. Nelson said he talked to the older couple, who had come to spend a couple weeks in the country, and were staying with friends in Greenfield for the weekend.

“I was glad to bump into them,” said Nelson. “They hadn’t even seen a pumpkin before!”

David Rainville can be reached at:

drainville@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 279

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