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Pumpkin Festival draws crowds, praise

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Posted: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 12:30 am

Thousands of people flocked to the pumpkin-filled field last weekend at Cal Poly Pomona’s 20th annual Pumpkin Festival.

The event ran from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the field outside of the Farm Store and brought in over 53,000 people from Pomona and its neighboring cities.

The festival offered many activities for attendees to participate in. Besides the patch full of more than 50,000 CPP-grown pumpkins, there was a corn maze, which had doubled in size since last year, a petting zoo, horse rides, carnival foods and games, about 52 local vendors and a pancake breakfast hosted by the Collins College.

Dawn Taccone, manager of the Farm Store and coordinator of the Pumpkin Festival, said she expected this year’s festival to have the biggest crowd yet.

She said the layout of the festival was spaced out better than last year with a lot less crowding.

There were about 100 volunteers each day who helped run the event. Although many agriculture students helped at the festival, there were also volunteers from local churches and schools who enjoy participating annually.

“[The volunteers are] why we are able to do all that we do,” said Taccone. “Once they come and volunteer, they’ll come every year.”

Many of the vendors who participated were returning merchants.

Karen Martin of Karen’s Corner has been a vendor at the festival for the past 15 years. She makes country-style decorations by hand, from cutting wood to sewing clothes.

“Everything is hand painted,” said Martin. “I take pride in making it myself. It’s very therapeutic after a log day of work at Cal Poly.”

Martin is the interim manager of distribution services at CPP, but enjoys handcrafting goods. She started Karen’s Corner in 1992.

“I’ve always been creative,” said Martin. “I always made my own gifts for everybody at Christmas and birthdays and so I decided to try [selling at farmers markets] and I liked meeting with different people.”

Although there were many returning vendors, first-time participant Danielle Burkey of Rebel Frills was excited to sell her retro-style aprons, potholders and casserole cozies, which are decorative covers for 9x13 baking dishes, that she sews herself.

“I am doing really well,” said Burkey. “I was not as prepared as I wanted to be, but I am doing really great and am excited that so many people are walking by and liking my products.”

Many families attended the event with children who wanted to carve and decorate their specially picked pumpkins.

Four-year-old Kylie ate her caramel apple with her grandfather after picking her pumpkin.

“We’re having fun at the carnival with Papa,” said Kylie. “[I’m going to pick] a big [pumpkin] and decorate it with pink and purple sparkles.”

Kati Cortez has been bringing her family to the farm festival for the past nine years.

“We always come bring our wagon and everybody gets to pick out their own pumpkin,” said Cortez.

The family of six spends a few hours picking pumpkins and walking around enjoying the different booths.

Cortez’s 4-year-old Joleen said she was happy to be at the event, and she was going to carve her pumpkin.

“I am going to carve a witch cat with a hat,” said Joleen.

First time attendees Jonathan and Jamie Thompson enjoyed the festivities for their daughter Avary’s first Halloween. The couple was very impressed with the crowded event and they plan to pay more attention to CPP Farm Store events in the future.

“We are already planning how we are going to be prepared for next year with the baby backpack and everything else,” said Jamie.

The event that now attracts tens of thousands of people was not always a hit. The festival had a humble beginning.

“It started out with two guys as a class project,” said Taccone. “Now we have over 50,000 pumpkins in the field, and they’re grown in our land in Chino, and they’re brought over. It’s crazy [how it has evolved].”

Taccone was most proud of the complete production of the festival and was given positive feedback by some of the vendors who participated.

“I want people to come in [to the festival and the Farm Store] and feel like this is great, I want them to feel welcome, and I think people feel that,” said Taccone. “When I heard the vendor say [he really likes the feeling at the farm store events] to me, that [made me feel] like we are on the right track.”

Planning for the event begins in July and consists of six key people, three of whom run the farm store, two are in control of club participation and one person is in charge of the pumpkins.

Taccone said if it were not for her family’s support, planning the event would be far more difficult.

“I mean, all my kids are out here [supporting] and it’s the help from everybody [that makes it happen], it’s great,” said Taccone.

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