Smashing Event: In This Small Town, Pumpkins Are a Big Deal

An article that the Wall Street Journal did on the Circleville Pumpkin Show! Great advertising for a great ag event!



For most of the year, James River is a local dentist in Circleville, a small Ohio town.

But this week, he’ll close his office and take on another prominent full-time role: Pumpkin Show trustee.



Jack Mader

Robert Liggett and his wife, Jo, pose behind their award-winning pumpkin at the 2010 Circleville Pumpkin Show.

Dr. River, who has been parade trustee for two decades, organizes seven parades, including one for roughly 150 first-graders vying for the Little Miss Pumpkin title and the band parade, which last year had 24 high schools and the Ohio State Marching Band.

There are 30 Pumpkin Show trustees, including one for security, another for concessions and rides, and two for fruits and vegetables, who oversee competition in 86 classes, such as the five best Brussels sprouts. The winner receives a ribbon and $4.

The four-day show, which begins Wednesday, is in its 105th year, has a $300,000 budget, a constitution and its own anthem, “The Punkin Show,” for years performed a cappella at the opening ceremony by a quartet of Kiwanis members, most of whom have passed away. Now the high school choir sings, “Take my hand and off we’ll go, we’re on our way to the Punkin Show.”

Pumpkin festivals are sprouting across the country this time of year, from South Jersey to Half Moon Bay, Calif., many holding giant pumpkin weigh-offs and vying to host the next world record, which now belongs to a Wisconsin man who produced an 1,810-pounder last year. The Keene Pumpkin Festival, in New Hampshire, goes for quantity of another sort, with 25,000 lit jack-o’-lanterns on its main street, while the Pumpkin Chuckin Festival in Millsboro, Del., goes for distance with its airborne pumpkins.

For Circleville, population 14,000, it’s the biggest event of the year.

City schools are closed most of the week, as are many businesses, since the show occupies eight downtown blocks. Lindsey’s Bakery, however, adds two shifts and staffs the kitchen 24 hours a day to make nearly 100,000 pumpkin doughnuts. “We get about 25% of our sales then,” says owner Katie Miller, whose parents came up with the recipe in the 1950s. The Rotary sells Pumpkin chili and the Presbyterian Church rents its parking lot.

“There’s no other fund-raising opportunity bigger than the Pumpkin Show,” says Barry Keller, the Pumpkin Show vice president. A recent survey found the show drew visitors from 34 states and 13 foreign countries.

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