Thousands flock to Montague for 10th Great Falls Festival

  • Below: Hundreds carved and decorated pumpkins on Avenue A during the Great Falls Festival. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Fire performers entertain the crowd on Avenue A during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • The 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Thousands gather on Avenue A for the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hundreds of carved and decorated pumpkins line Avenue A during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hundreds of carved and decorated pumpkins line Avenue A during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Fire performers entertain the crowd on Avenue A during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of Karen’s Dance Studio perform their Hollywood Horror dance routine during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Clockwise from left: Members of Karen’s Dance Studio perform their Hollywood Horror dance routine, one of hundreds decorated and carved pumpkins that lined Avenue A, and a fire performer entertaining the crowd at the Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of Karen’s Dance Studio perform their Hollywood Horror dance routine during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Members of Karen’s Dance Studio perform their Hollywood Horror dance routine during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Hundreds of carved and decorated pumpkins line Avenue A during the 10th annual Great Falls Festival on Saturday in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/21/2019 1:00:17 AM

By DAVID McLELLAN

MONTAGUE — It was a celebration of fall in Turners Falls. 

Saturday was the 10th annual Great Falls Festival, formerly known as “Pumpkinfest.” Thousands of people flooded downtown Turners Falls for music and games, food and all things fall. 

And of course, there were pumpkins. Hundreds of pumpkins lined Avenue A, a festival tradition since it was first held in 2010. The pumpkins were carved and decorated, and brought by visitors enjoying the day. Many were spooky and Halloween-themed, with carved silhouettes of owls, witches or creepy faces. Others were painted colorfully with designs or animals.

Organizers didn’t count the pumpkins this year, but, according to organizer and festival founder Mike Nelson, there are typically between 600 and 700 pumpkins, and the festival itself draws up to 10,000 people, mostly from Franklin County, but also from other parts of New England and beyond. 

In fact, the festival was originally called “Pumpkinfest” because lining Turners Falls with pumpkins was the whole point. However, as the festival grew and people started coming for the musical performances and other attractions, “Great Falls Festival” seemed more apt, and the name was changed in 2017, according to Nelson.

“We still hear ‘Pumpkinfest,’” said Janet Sullivan, from Vermont. “It’s wacky and totally awesome.”

Sullivan and her husband, Tom, decorated a pumpkin “the normal way,” carving two triangle-shaped eyes and a wide, toothy grin. They were excited to see there pumpkin standing out among others that were painted extravagantly or even covered in feathers. 

“We wanted to do it the traditional way,” Sullivan said. “It’s very fall-ish, very New England — just a classic New England fair type of thing. That’s why we come.”

But there was one pumpkin that was anything but “normal.” 

“It’s definitely between 2 pounds and 34 million pounds,” said Kelly Sykes, of Greenfield Savings Bank. 

Behind Sykes was a hulking pumpkin — at least four to five feet across in diameter — sitting on a cart by the Greenfield Savings Bank tent. The giant pumpkin’s orange skin drooped at the sides, as if it were about to collapse into a pile of mush under its own weight. 

Sykes said the enormous pumpkin was grown in Erving, and it was a “contest pumpkin” with a bright future at local contests following the festival. A “do not touch” sign printed on a piece of computer paper was small enough to be the pumpkin’s name tag, and children resisting the urge to touch the monstrosity looked on with awe. 

People were able to write down guesses of how much the pumpkin weighed, as well as their phone numbers, and the person who guessed closest to the actual weight got a phone call and a $25 gift card to Food City following Saturday’s festival. Sykes said she and her co-workers didn’t even know how much it weighed. 

“Adults have been guessing in the thousands of pounds,” Sykes said. “But (the guesses) have kind of been all over the place.”

Besides the pumpkins were several stages, with bands playing a variety of genres, from rock to reggae. There was also face painting, games and about 150 vendors at the festival. 

Roads were closed to traffic for the festival, and instead the streets were filled the smells of fried dough and cooking meet, children in costumes — Spiderman, a cow, a fairy — and just a few smashed pumpkins. 

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




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