Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest
by Gary McWilliams (aka Festival Nomad)
In Search of the Great Pumpkin…
Here we are on a blustery Saturday morning heading out in search of the great pumpkin. Our search is taking us to another Prince Edward County event where, I am told, some of the greatest pumpkins reside! The event we are bound for is the Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest located in the picturesque village of Wellington, home of the “Dukes”. How do I know all this, you might ask? That’s simple; it’s the retirement home of my late “older” brother Chuck and his wife Flo. Chuck was part of the crew that helps organize the Pumpkinfest and has the distinction of helping weigh the giant pumpkin that are brought in for the giant pumpkin contest. When we arrived in town, neither Flo nor Chuck were anywhere to be seen.
After we had parked our car in the church parking lot we walked to the Wellington Park to see if we could find them. Not finding them, we headed back to the main street. Just across from the park I notice a sign saying “Pancake Breakfast” with an arrow pointing the way. The breakfast was being held in the Wellington Town Hall. Once inside the Hall, we purchased our breakfast tickets and found a table to sit at. The set up for this breakfast was different from any other we had attended. Here, rather than lining up to be served, you sat down with you ticket and then a volunteer would bring you your breakfast and take your ticket. A very civilized way of handling a Pancake Breakfast! After breakfast we headed back to the park. Vendors were just setting up their booths, so there wasn’t much to see yet. The park is located right on the banks of Lake Ontario.
It is a lovely little park with a fantastic children’s playground/fort. The playground is enclosed in a old fort like setting that made me wish I was a kid again. Down by the lake the waves were beating against the shore. It was a very dull cool day with darkening rain clouds overhead.
The Pumpkinfest Parade was going to start shortly, so we wandered back to the main street. We picked an open spot waiting for the parade to begin. As we were standing there, who should walk in front of us but Flo? Flo and her friend had been heading to the park to see what was being offered by the festival’s vendor. She promised to be back before the start of the parade…
The Pumpkin Parade…
Crowds were gathering on both sides of the street anticipating the start of the parade. People were huddled together trying to stay warm. Cool autumn winds were all about us. Flo and her friend hadn’t returned yet. I was starting to wonder if she would make it back by the start of the parade. Finally the sound of bagpipes could be heard in the distance.
I wandered out onto the street to get a better look. Coming in from the south (I think it was the south, I always confuse my directions when I’m in Wellington!) was the start of the parade.
It wouldn’t reach us for several minutes. Just as the front of the parade reached us, Flo and her friend re-appeared. First there was the OPP cruiser with its lights flashing, the officer inside waving to all the people. Next came the flag bearers following by the Pipes and Drums. The parade was off to a great start!
The rest of the parade followed behind. This was definitely a parade of the pumpkins. Large and small pumpkins filled trucks and wagons. The large pumpkins were being shown off by the proud growers before the big weigh-in. Cars, people, dogs and wagons were all decorated to create a wonderful harvest atmosphere.
Even though we were in a small town, this was a “giant” parade, full of great floats, interesting vehicles and enthusiastic adults and children. The parade included several service club presentations (Shriners, Lions and Rotary).
The Wellington Dukes hockey team had their own float and caused quite a stir amongst the crowd as they passed. The last vehicle in the parade was likely the most representative of Wellington and its Pumpkinfest.
It was the largest tractor I have ever seen! Some in the crowd said it was the world’s largest tractor. I don’t know if that was true or not, but it was certainly big. It took up both sides of the street.
It was a great parade, one of the best I have viewed. The parade being over, Flo and her friend said their goodbyes and Judi and I were left on our own to explore the rest of the festival…
The Great Pumpkin Found…
Flo had told us that my brother, Chuck, was across the street at the weighing in area. We headed in that direction. On the way, however, there was a small distraction, a craft show! We detoured into the church where the show was being held. Local crafters were on hand ready to talk about and sell their crafts. We manoeuvred our way through the aisles of crafts stopping occasionally to admire the crafters’ handiwork. From the craft show we started again on our search for big brother.
On our way to the weigh-off centre we passed a kids’ inflatable play area, a “make-up” ball hockey game featuring the Dukes and admirers and the “Hasting & Prince Edward Fire Safety House”. Finally we reached the giant pumpkin drop off area. A forklift was removing the pumpkins from trucks and trailers and lining them up in a holding area.
Also being removed were giant cucumbers. They must have been over nine feet long! Off to the side I saw the great pumpkin, my brother, behind a long table. He and others were checking in the “giant pumpkin” grower contestants. Chuck was very busy so we only said a quick hello. Off to the side of the check-in table was the weigh-off scale. The weigh-off was to take place later in the afternoon. We took our leave and headed back to the park…
Lunch and Then We’re Off…
The park was now full of people. We passed through the main gate into the park. Pumpkins and scarecrows lined the entrance. More vendors had set up and the Gazebo was alive with music. The Pipe and Drum Band that had led the parade were now performing in the Gazebo. Vendors selling a variety of goods were now open for business.
Even though the day was chilly, the warm atmosphere of the festival seemed invigorate the festival goers. On our way down to the park I had noticed a sign reading “Chicken and Biscuit Lunch”. It was close to lunchtime and the thought of a church lunch was inviting. We entered the church through the side door. The lunch had already drawn a large crowd. The line up started as soon as we entered the building. Fortunately the wait wasn’t too long. We paid for out meals and lined up with plate in hand. A liberal amount of biscuits and chicken were placed on our plates. We found two vacant seats and sat down to eat our meal. We sat across from a lovely lady and chatted about the Wellington Pumpkinfest. As it turned out she knew my brother and his wife and even had nice things to say about them. After we had finished the made course, volunteer servers came around offering coffee or tea and as an added bonus brought a tray of pies to choose from. The homemade pumpkin pie was excellent! After lunch, it was time to leave. Our mission to find the “great pumpkin” had been a success!