The time has come, once again, for s’more pumpkin fanfare. Morton Pumpkin Festival will celebrate its 52nd year of all things pumpkin, served up this year with warm marshmallows, melted chocolate and crispy graham crackers and dubbed S’more Pumpkin.
Pre-festival events began kicked Sept. 9 with an open tennis tournament at the Joal Stanfield Tennis Complex, followed by the Pumpkin Pedal bike ride to benefit the Midwest Food Bank Tender Mercies program.
At noon that day, the Morton Chamber of Commerce hosted the first-ever Pumpkin Boat Races, where celebrity contestants boarded large, hollowed-out pumpkins and raced about the lake at Kennel Lake Sportsman’s Club.
“The Pumpkin Pedal is a 5-mile bike to motivate people to ride through the community,” Morton Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Leigh Ann Brown said. Registration was $5, and all participants were given a free T-shirt.
Other pre-festival activities included the Open Pickle Ball Tournament, a box car derby, the Pumpkin Weigh Off and the Big Wheel Race. As usual, the festival’s opening ceremony is Wednesday at 5 p.m. at the the Main Stage.
The Midway will open an hour before the ceremony, and the Pumpkin Princess Pageant will follow at 6:30. In keeping with its theme, pumpkin s’more goodies will be served during the festival.
Brown said a new “grand entrance” archway will be featured in the heart of the fair; a festival first.
“We’ll also have s’more pumpkin cookie dough as the signature food item, s’more ice cream served in a souvenir cup, another featured item,” Brown said. “The Pumpkin Drive-Thru on Detroit Street will serve s’more pumpkin recipes, along with the Sweet Shop on festival grounds.”
The Kiddie Parade, the first of two festival parades, will commence on Main Street at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13. The Pumpkin Festival Parade begins at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, closing day. The 2018 parade marshals are the Morton Potters Baseball team.
The Potters brought home the Class 3A State Championship, the first state championship since 1984, breaking 34-year drought. Because of the parade’s popularity, many people place chairs along the parade route days in advance.
“We don’t really have anything, rule-wise, other than to not have them on the street or sidewalk,” Morton Police Deputy Chief Jason Miller said. “We’d like it if people would bring chairs the day of the parade.”
The parade, pumpkin pancake breakfasts, the pie eating contest are among many of the festival’s mainstays people count on. This year, however, one item is missing from the schedule; the Morton Public Library’s art and photography contest.
“There were logistic changes, with the library refresh project,” Brown explained. “We’ll take the year off and bring the competition back in full force next year.”
Festival booklets featuring the Pumpkin Festival schedule, parade routes, entertainment information and more may be found at many Morton retailers and at the Chamber offices on Jefferson Street while supplies last.
All information from the booklet may also be found online at http://www.mortonpumpkinfestival.org.