A pumpkin festival is a very popular celebration in America, although other countries, such as Australia, have their own versions. Originally intended to help local farmers with the growth and selling of their pumpkins, the festivals today are family-orientated affairs. Usually in October, before Halloween, the festivals celebrate the harvest and the coming of autumn and boast a variety of pumpkin-related activities, contests, and food.
The pumpkin festival includes a number of activities, many designed for children. There is usually a pumpkin patch, where children can choose a pumpkin to take home. There are typically pumpkin carving and decorating stands, and people can have their photos taken with extremely large examples of the fruit. Often, there is also a parade that represents the different local businesses and groups.
Entertainment is also a typical element of a pumpkin festival. Live music, clowns, and children's face painting are all common activities. As the festivals take place so close to Halloween, there is also often a haunted house for the children to walk through. For adults, there are stands selling a variety of produce and harvest-inspired craft items.
There are also numerous contests at a pumpkin festival. Competitions are held for the largest pumpkin, the tastiest pumpkin, and the best pumpkin carving or sculpture. There are also pumpkin-pie baking contests, where judges taste the competitors' homemade pies and choose a winner. Pie-eating contests are also popular, with contestants competing to consume the most amount of pie within a limited time frame. Even the seeds of the pumpkin are involved, with contests to see who can spit a seed the farthest.
Another very popular contest at these festivals is beauty pageants. Usually containing categories for both younger and older girls, the winners of these pageants are crowned the queen, princess, or "miss" of the pumpkin festival. The winners of all of the contests generally receive prizes, often a ribbon, sash, or even a trophy. Other prizes may include money or gift certificates.
The food at the festival is heavily pumpkin based, although other typical festival foods, such as hamburgers and hot dogs, are usually also available. Pumpkin pies, cakes, and ice cream are just a few of the themed foods sold. There is often even beer and wine made from pumpkins.
A pumpkin festival is often combined with other agricultural elements, such as horse or livestock shows, farm produce, and craft fairs. As they are local, they are great opportunities for communities to come together and celebrate. These celebrations often carry into the night, closing the daytime activities with dinners and dances.