When the Circleville Pumpkin Show opens next month, it will be a welcome return to normalcy for the city after taking a year off in 2020. This will be the 114th edition of the Pumpkin Show and, while there will be a few pandemic related changes, organizers say it will be the same incredible hometown event that visitors have come to expect.
Circleville native Barry Keller has been Pumpkin Show Vice President for 25 years and says that volunteers have stayed busy preparing for the event. “This year there will be some changes because of Covid but we are excited to welcome people back to downtown Circleville and the Pumpkin Show,” he said. “This is a mostly outdoor event so we believe it is as safe as other large outdoor events and we look forward getting back to normal this year.”
Visitors will see a few pandemic related changes. For example, their longtime ride company has retired so there will be new rides with a new company and a completely different layout. The family owned and Indiana based Poor Jack Amusements will bring traditional family favorites like the carousel along with some modern thrill rides.
Meanwhile cherished traditions like their seven parades, live music, outdoor vendors, contests and pumpkin goodness will continue as normal.
But this isn’t a normal event. The Circleville Pumpkin Show attracts 400,000 people in four days and is the sixth largest festival of any kind in the country. With pumpkin food, pumpkin carving and giant pumpkins topping as much as 1,700 pounds, it’s the oldest and largest festival in Ohio. In other words, they don’t call it “The Greatest Free Show On Earth” for nothing.
There are parades to celebrate pets, community, queens and even bands. In fact, Gary and Connie Sharpe, owners of Circleville-based Health Care Logistics are sponsoring the Ohio State University Marching Band to participate in the Parade of Bands on Thursday night. This is the third time the Sharpes have made this generous sponsorship and a shining example of how volunteers, sponsors and the entire community come together to make this event successful.
“This isn’t just another festival. It’s a community homecoming. It’s an attraction for people from all over the country and all over the world. It’s the Pumpkin Show and people look forward to it all year,” Keller explained. “You can always tell when it’s Pumpkin Show time because people start to freshen up their storefronts, they clean up, paint buildings, freshen up mulch. Pumpkins and mums start to appear at homes and everyone gets in on the act of helping the town put our best foot forward.”
It’s also the biggest fundraiser of the year for civic groups, churches, school organizations, small businesses and vendors of all kind. “For some of these organizations, the money they make at the Pumpkin Show funds their activities for the year. It’s important that they have a good year,” he explained.
Courtney Hart owns Ivy Court in downtown Circleville and has been a vendor at the Pumpkin Show for several years. The local native’s shop has a host of handmade items personalized to Round Town and its famous Pumpkin Show. They also sell plants and a carefully curated selection of handmade items. “The Pumpkin Show is our number one event every year but we also had our online sales to keep us going. I can’t imagine how hard it was for all the small businesses, vendors and civic groups that badly needed the sales. It’s not just a fun event, it’s important to the economy,” she said.
She lit up when asked to describe the event. “It’s like Christmas. I’ve been coming since I was a little girl and have always look forward to it. People absolutely love the tradition of it. That’s what the Pumpkin Show is all about. If you’re from here, it’s like a big homecoming and a class reunion every year. If you’re not from here, it’s still an amazing festival. Not one disappointing block and so much to see and do,” she smiled.
Hart’s business is known for merchandise featuring the festival’s mascot Mr. Winky. They will have apparel, mugs, cutting boards, burlap prints and other unique pieces celebrating the event and the city. These items will be available in her South Court Street store beginning October 1 and will also be found in their festival booth. “We can hardly wait,” she exclaimed.
Keller invites everyone to attend and credits organizers, the community, sponsors, and the 250 or more volunteers who help to keep the Pumpkin Show successful year after year. “We couldn’t do it without everyone working together and we hope the community and everyone who attends will enjoy having the Pumpkin Show back this year,” he said. “Being an outdoor event, we believe this is as safe as the other large outdoor events but we encourage people to use their own judgement. If people have concerns about Covid, it’s a personal choice to not attend and we encourage you to stay away for now but to come back when you feel it’s safe,” he said.
They are waiting for direction from the health department regarding precautions necessary for indoor displays and events and will announce those changes as they become available.
The Circleville Pumpkin Show is held the third Wednesday through Saturday in October. This year, that will be October 20-23, 2021. Visit their website and follow the Circleville Pumpkin Show, Inc. on Facebook for the latest information and details including a full schedule, parking information and ride pass info.