What is PumpkinFest?

Pumpkinfest is a really great way to celebrate fall. It has a bunch of activities for people of all ages to enjoy. I’ve been going to the Pumpkinfestin historic Franklin for years. Each year it gets bigger and better, and every year I have a great time.

One of the highlights of the Franklin Pumpkinfest is the Pumpkin Roll.  You can bring a pumpkin of your own or buy one at the festival in order to compete. Everyone stands at the top of a hill and the goal is to get your pumpkin to roll the farthest. It is actually pretty exciting to watch. Many of the pumpkins are casualties of the road and splatter before they get very far. Others veer off course and roll into the audience. I like that because then you can actually kick it back into the competition. If this doesn’t sound exciting to you, you obviously need to see it in person, because it is a really fun time. The person whose pumpkin made it the farthest even gets a monetary prize!

There is also a costume contest for those interested. It is broken down by age, and there is a different category for groups. That means the adults are allowed to compete too! And evn more adorably, our pets can get in on the action. There is a small fee for entering the contest (both for humans and animals) but the prizes are usually pretty cool. If you are wearing a costume, you may as well enter!

Activities abound all day long. If you have little ones, there’s a lot to do. They close off a whole street to make room for bouncy houses, face painting, games, and pony rides. For selfie fans, there are plenty of photo opportunities as you walk around. If you don’t have kids or just aren’t into all that, they have vendors selling arts and crafts, as well as live music from some really great local bands. And what would a festival be without street food? There are plenty of vendors selling tasty treats for the whole family. As if that weren’t enough, there’s also a beer garden!

If you get bored with those things, you can check out some really awesome carved pumpkins or pose for a picture with the Great Pumpkin. You can try to guess its weight in order to win yourself a nice prize.

For those souls brave enough to stomach being in a cemetery at night, there are first-person stories about some of our most famous deceased residents.

If you are in the area at the end of October, I definitely recommend coming out for the festival. And if you aren’t here at the end of October, you definitely should be!

Grow Your Own Pumpkins

Pumpkins are actually pretty easy to grow on your own without too much of a green thumb. Luckily, pumpkins can grow in a variety of temperature conditions, so if you have a good-sized patch of land with full sunlight, you should be all set.

Take a look at the area you want to use before you plant. Pumpkins require a lot of space. Vines from a pumpkin plant can take over your whole garden, growing upwards of 20 feet in length. Be sure that you’ll have the room for thenumber of seeds you want—you’re going to need to plant the seeds with about five feet of space between each. Once you are confident that you have enough space, start working on the soil. Pumpkins are water- and nutrient- hungry, so the ground has to be well-tilled and have enough food for your crop. Compost or manure mixed into the soil will help ensure that your pumpkins will grow well.

Next, determine when you should plant your seeds.It is necessary to accommodate for their long growing season. It can take anywhere from 75-120 days for pumpkins to fully mature. That’s a long time! If you live in colder climes, you’ll have to wait till the danger of frost has passed and the soil is nice and warm.When in doubt, you can plant them indoors and transplant after the dangers of frost have passed. The more north you go, the earlier you should get the seeds in the ground. Farmer’s Almanac recommends by the end of May for eastern states, while the deep south can wait until around the 4th of July.

Once your pumpkins have started growing, they’ll need the same care as most other plants. Lots of sunlight, weeding, and watering. When you water, be sure to keep the leaves as dry as possible to avoid mold and rot. The easiest way to do this would be to water your pumpkins early in the day so that the leaves have time to dry in the sunlight if you get any of them wet. While pumpkins do require a lot of water, be sure not to overwater them, as this can also cause rotting.

First, you will see sprouts. Next come the flower blossoms. There are two types of flowers that will grow on your vines: the male flower, which is more narrow and attracts bees and other pollinators to the patch, and the female flower, which has a small bulb at the base. If your female flower is fertilized, it will begin to grow a pumpkin. If not, it will wither and die off. If you want to control how many pumpkins you get in your patch, you can keep an eye on the number of female flowers growing in your garden and ‘pinch off’ the female flowers after you reach your desired amount.

Then your pumpkins will start to grow. If you planted a traditional orange pumpkin, the color should be nice and deep. The vines will also start to wither away when the pumpkins are ripe. Of course, the best way to tell if your pumpkin is ripe is by checking to see how hard the shell is. If you can indent the skin of the pumpkin with a fingernail, it isn’t ready to be picked.

Once you’ve got your pumpkin picked, it is time to enjoy all your hard work! Carve it, paint it, turn it into a decoration, or use it as an ingredient in a nice fall recipe!

Pumpkin Carving Tips and Tricks

Being artistic can help when you’re carving a pumpkin but it isn’t everything. If you have the right tools and some patience, you can make something really cool.

First, find a good pumpkin. The larger it is, the easier it will be to carve. Be sure it isn’t soft, there are no bruises, and the stem isn’t moldy. You don’t want it to go bad before its time.

Now it is time to get to work. Using soap and water, wipe down the pumpkin. Carefully cut the top off with a sharp knife. It’s better to cut it at an angle. It will prevent the top from falling into the pumpkin when you put it back. Get all the goop and the seeds out of there.

Once the pumpkin is empty, you need to start scraping. Use a metal spoon or even an ice cream scoop to clean the inside. The bottom needs to be flat so that when you add a light, it can sit flat. The walls also need to be scraped. They will need to be between 1”-1 ½” thick. That gives your design some support but will make it easy to carve.

After scraping down the sides, the real fun begins. Choose a design for your pumpkin. You can find something online, or freehand it with a marker onto the pumpkin itself. I find paper to be easier. Tape your chosen design to the front of the pumpkin. Use a pushpin or other sharp, pointy tool to make an outline.

Remove the paper stencil from the pumpkin and you should have dotted guidelines for you to follow. Use a serrated knife and carefully follow the dots to create your jack o’ lantern. Go slowly and follow your guidelines until your design is complete.

Quick tips to make your hard work last a little longer:

  • I know some people who soak a hollowed-outpumpkin in bleach for a few hours before carving in order to “preserve” it a little. You can also rub the inside with petroleum jelly to prolong the mold set in. Others use a vegetable oil spray.
  • You can also make a bleach solution (1 tablespoon bleach per quart of water) and pour it into a spray bottle. Spray down the inside of the pumpkin and any cut surfaces. After 20 minutes, rinse the pumpkin down with cool water. Wear gloves for this part so you aren’t touching the bleach.
  • If it starts to shrivel, a soak in cold water can help.
  • The hotter it is, the faster your pumpkin will rot. Keep it out of the sunlight and consider refrigerating it during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Keep in mind that no matter what you do, your creation is going to shrivel, rot, and collapse. That’s just what happens. Mine typically last about a week.

Lighting tips:

  • If you are using a candle, be sure to put it on something non-flammable. Or use a tealight. Keep the lid OFF the pumpkin when you have the candle lit. Never, ever leave a lit pumpkin unattended.
  • As an alternative to open flames, they make battery powered LED tea lights you can put inside the pumpkin. Some even flicker like real candles. These are a much safer option, and they are not very expensive. Plus, you can leave the lid on.
  • As another fun option, you can use glow sticks. They don’t last nearly as long as the LED lights, but you can get them in all kinds of colors and they can give your carving a really cool look.

Hope you enjoyed these tips, and happy carving!