As a centerpiece of the art and pumpkin festival, there will be giant pumpkin weigh-offs, which will begin on Friday afternoon, starting at 4 p.m. Mike Blevins, an award-winning, local pumpkin grower will lead the weigh-off this year, and the event remains a sanctioned event through The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Operation Pumpkin has the largest prize package in The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, awarding over $25,000 in prizes. Awards will be given to the top 20 pumpkins and squashes.
Competitors will have pumpkins on display that weigh up to 2,000 pounds or more. Last year, the winner was 2,072.5 pounds. The giant pumpkin weigh-off had more than 40 entries last year and even more are expected to be entered this year. To date, growers have signed up from all over Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania.
The world record pumpkin is 2,702 pounds. It’s rumored that that there will be a pumpkin coming from Michigan that may be close to or weigh more than that.
There will about 42 100- to 200-lb. sculpted pumpkins on display, a Great Wall of Pumpkins, lighted pumpkins in the windows of downtown businesses, and a decorated pumpkin display that features more than 1,700 decorated pumpkins crafted by fourth-grade students from Hamilton-area public and private schools. Live sculptors will also be on hand at the festival, so that spectators can witness some of the sculpting.
The entertainment line-up will include headliners The Sly Band on Friday night at 7:30 p.m., Don’t Tell Steve on Saturday night at 7 p.m. and Blue Water Kings Band on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. The Main Stage will be located at the intersection of High Street and Riverfront Plaza.
A family activity
Operation Pumpkin’s annual Lil’ Miss Punkin crowning takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday the weekend of the festival. A Pet Parade will take place on Sunday at noon. Pets (and their owners) may compete in a costume contest with prizes.
“Every year with the Pet Parade, it seems like owners get more creative with their costumes. In 2019, we had a man dress up as Shrek and he brought his donkey from a local farm,” Fritsch said.
Kids can participate in a variety of free activities, including a hay maze. The Fitton Center will have a selfie station. For a fee, kids may also enjoy amusement rides and a bungee trampoline.
For those 21 and older, beer and wine will be available. There will be more than 100 food and artisan vendors selling jewelry, distinctive artwork, vintage clothing, antique and re-purposed furniture and more. There will also be produce, pumpkins and mums available for purchase.
“What’s great about Operation Pumpkin is you can come one day with the family and be really focused on that, and then, you can come another day with adults, or do both. So, there’s really something for everybody,” Fritsch said.
The festival was started in 2012 by husband and wife, Jason and Tammy Snyder. About 15 volunteers serve on the festival’s planning committee, and more than 150 volunteers help out over the course of the weekend.
“People want to be a part of this, and it’s a great opportunity to showcase everything that’s going on in downtown Hamilton,” Fritsch said. “The community has really embraced this festival as their own.”
The event also gives back to the community: Monies that are raised during the festival are invested back into organizations in the community, such as the Hamilton Parks Conservancy.
This is the 11th year for the event. More than 27 states have been represented at the festival in years past. Historically, more than 60,000 people have come through downtown Hamilton the weekend of the festival.
How to go
What: Operation Pumpkin festival
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: Downtown Hamilton
Admission: Free, all ages
More info: operation-pumpkin.org and facebook.com/operationpumpkin