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Pumpkin Festival celebrates Autumn in Appalachia

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer, Photographer

Each year the warm summer breeze dissolves and gives way to an autumn chill that brings forth a stunning visual wonder. The dramatic color change cascading over the once green mountainsides and the crispness in the air inspires a desire for the warmth of a crackling fire burning in the wood stove and the smell of simmering apple cider. To celebrate this magical time of year, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored the revival of the Pumpkin Festival which was previously held in Ralph Stout Park. This year’s Pumpkin Festival took place on Main Street in Mountain City on Saturday, October 6 and offered a cornucopia of family friendly events.
Traveling down Main Street during the week prior to the Pumpkin Festival you’re greeted by a motley crew of celebrities, cartoon characters and ghosts and ghouls. The title of “Scarecrows on Main” may make one think of the traditional straw-stuffed and rag-tag clothed characters that famers have relied on for years. However, the Scarecrows on Main competition inspires its participants to let their imaginations run wild. Everything from a cowboy riding a bucking bronco complete with a pumpkin for a head to a playful representation of the staff of Smith and Cockett could be seen lining Main Street to welcome this year’s Pumpkin Festival. The winners of this year’s competition are as follows: third place went to the Angry Birds display which was created by the Positive Thinkers, second place was awarded to the Johnson County Community Theater for their “Grouch Crow Marx” scarecrow and the first place winner was Beta Theta for their take on the classic 101 Dalmatians character Cruella Deville entitled “Crowella De’field.”

The Scarecrows on Main was just one of the many competitions that were a part of this year’s Pumpkin Festival. First, second, and third place prizes were awarded to contestants that grew the largest pumpkin, cooked the best pumpkin dish, and carved the best Jack-O-Lantern. The winners of this year’s giant pumpkin growing contest are: third place was awarded to Tyler Mays for a 349-pound pumpkin, second place went to Kyle Little for a 419-pound pumpkin, and first place went to Fred Norris for his 570-pound giant.
The “Anything Pumpkin” cooking contest was awarded as follows: in fourth place was Christi Wallace with her pumpkin bread, third place went to Sean Kleine for his pumpkin mousse cheesecake, second place went to Debra Ray for her pumpkin angel food cake and first place went to Debbie Howard for her pumpkin bread.
This year’s Jack-O-Lantern carving contest was awarded as follows: fourth place went to Andrea Pereti for her rendition of a “mama pumpkin,” the third place prize was awarded to Jessica Palmer for her monkey face pumpkin, second place went to Phil Norris for his flaming pumpkin and the grand prize was awarded to Chris Lyell for his Super Mario pumpkin.
The Pumpkin Festival also held a pageant where miniature autumn beauties were given the chance to showcase their charm. The winners of this year’s pageant are as follows: in the baby category, little Mazie Lynn Phillips took the title, in the ‘Wee’ age group the winner was Taylor Ray Jennings, up next were the ‘Tots’ with Elizabeth Danielle Jennings coming in first, in the ‘Tiny’ category, Hailey Osborne took the title, the winner for the ‘Princess’ category was Deanna Greer and Chloe Paige Arnold was crowned this year’s Pumpkin Festival Queen.

A diverse array of vendors lined Main Street at this year’s event. High quality handmade crafts and artwork were just some of the offerings at the Pumpkin Festival. Some crafts had a flair for the modern like Renee Proffitt’s frosted mason jars with autumn themed silhouettes etched on the front; Proffitt was inspired to create these wonders by the popular digital pin board “Pinterest.” Other crafts were reminiscent of the days of yore like Soulshine Soap Company’s old fashioned handcrafted soaps made of organic herbs and essential oils. ‘Charlotte’s Web’ was also in attendance selling colorful and aromatic candles in appropriate autumn themes. Joan DeNuncio of Tater Hill Pottery was there selling her earth-toned stoneware. When asked how she manages to create her exceptional pottery she responded with, “Not cleaning the house and not having dinner on time.” She also said of her craft “It’s my Zen; I just love having my hands in clay.”

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