Dropping pumpkins for a smashing good cause

  • Tom Wiskiewicz, Franklin County 4-H educator, watches as a pumpkin is smashed at a charity event supporting 4-H clubs. STAFF PHOTO/DAVID MCLELLAN

Staff Writer
Published: 11/4/2019 2:00:20 AM

SHELBURNE — A pumpkin is technically a squash.

That was true in more than one way this weekend.

The annual Pumpkin Smash to benefit Franklin County 4-H — hosted by WHAI 98.3, Bear Country 95.3 and The Outlaw 101.3 radio stations — took place Saturday at Hager’s Farm Market in Shelburne.

Each year, the Pumpkin Smash is held on the Saturday after Halloween, where people may bring their pumpkins and jack-o’-lanterns, and watch as they are dropped from a platform crane 30 feet above the ground.

Whoever has the pumpkin that splatters furthest from the point of impact on the ground, wins a trophy and $150.

“We were looking to do something a little off-the-wall, and it’s for a great cause,” said Kevin Bazan, host of the Bear Country morning show.

According to Bazan, the event has grown since it was first held in the radio station parking lot nearly a decade ago. It’s become a showing of community support, he said, with the trophy provided by Ames Trophy in Orange, the crane from West County Equipment Rentals and more than 100 raffle items donated by businesses across Western Massachusetts. Hager’s Farm Market also chips in, Bazan said, graciously lends its property for the event.

But the real purpose, he said, is to help Franklin County 4-H. The nonprofit 4-H is an international organization that sponsors youth clubs, allowing those ages five to 21 to start local clubs with focuses ranging from pottery to robotics — it’s all up to the locals who start the clubs.

Pumpkin Smash raises money for Franklin County 4-H through its raffle, and also from smashing the pumpkins, with people donating in order to see their pumpkin plummet.

“It’s not a set amount you have to donate, it’s whatever you can,” Bazan said.

Organizers won’t have a full tally of how much was raised until Monday, Bazan said, but in past years the event has raised around $4,000 to $5,000. Last year, the weather was bad and it was a “down year,” Bazan said. But this year, there were nothing but clear blue skies for the skydiving jack-o’-lanterns to soar through.

According to Tom Wiskiewicz, an educator for Franklin County 4-H, events like the Pumpkin Smash are what keeps the organization going, with proceeds paying for things like equipment for computer science or robotics clubs, or plane tickets for clubs that travel.

“The radio stations team up with Hager’s to support 4-H. Franklin County 4-H always has incredible support,” Wiskiewicz said, taking a short break from shoveling pumpkin innards off of the still-green grass.

Wiskiewicz said,while some may think youth clubs are dwindling or a thing of the past, that’s not true in Franklin County. They are growing in number, with clubs of all types typically having around eight to 10 members, and large clubs having upwards of 30 members.

“Things like this, it’s absolutely huge,” he said, estimating between 800 to 1,000 people came to the event throughout the day. “We can expand because of events like this.”

Clubs related to technology have become more and more popular, Wiskiewicz said. On the other end of the spectrum, so have clubs related to gardening or agriculture, or stitching and knitting clubs, which have popped up in areas like Montague and Shelburne Falls recently. “Homesteading” clubs teaching skills like canning have also grown in number, he said.

“Why (are clubs growing)? It’s the back-to-the-land movement,” Wiskiewicz said. “Things like poultry and vegetable gardening, those basic skills that got lost for a generation.”

Watching the pumpkins fall, Wiskiewicz noted it was a “symbollic” fundraiser for the trend in local 4-H clubs.

“These youngsters raised a lot of these pumpkins themselves,” he said. “Who would’ve thought (Pumpkin Smash) would draw this many people. What it is, it’s a chance to have fun, it’s a little competitive and it brings everyone together.”

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.

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