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Sure to be a smash: Ottertail Pumpkin Fest Oct. 19

News this year is the Giant Pumpkin Drop. A 1,000-pound pumpkin will be lifted up and then released from a 100-foot crane, splattering all over the demolition derby arena downtown. Focus file photo

This year’s Pumpkin Festival in Ottertail ought to be a smashing time, with the addition of the event’s first-ever Giant Pumpkin Drop.

The drop is exactly what it sounds like – a 1,000-pound pumpkin will be lifted up and then released from a 100-foot crane, splattering all over the demolition derby arena downtown.

The drop will be held at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19, following the festival’s third annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off, which starts at noon at the Ottertail Community Center parking lot.

The weigh-off pits local and regional giant pumpkin growers against each other in a contest to see who has grown the heaviest one. Prizes are also awarded to the pumpkins voted “prettiest” and “ugliest” by the crowd.

The weigh-off has proven to be a hit with visitors, and continues to grow each year. But it’s certainly not all there is to see or do at the festival.

As in years past, the Pumpkin Festival will feature face painting, horse-and-buggy rides, brats and pumpkin desserts, pumpkin carving for the kids, and other entertainment.

New this year will be a bike giveaway for four lucky kids. The Ottertail City Auction committee donated the bikes for the festival, along with helmets.

Events will be ongoing between noon and 3 p.m.

The festival started in 2001 and is put on by The Williams Company Store in downtown Ottertail.

“The Pumpkin Festival is a fun, music-filled event in our store and Ottertail,” said store owner Pam Williams in an email to the Focus. “We ask that everyone donate whatever they feel they can afford that day.”

In addition to being fun for families, the festival is also a fundraiser for those in need. Over the years, more than $24,000 has been collected from festival-goers, with money going toward various local charities and causes.

“We have donated the money to Habitat for Humanity, the Ottertail walking and bike path, and now the Otter Tail County School Backpack Program,” said Williams. “I ask that the money be designated for the Perham area schools each year.”

The Backpack Program provides kids with packs full of food to take home over the weekend. The packs are discreetly left in kids’ lockers on Fridays. Food for the packs is bought and distributed by Otter Tail County United Way.

Williams said many local businesses and volunteers contribute their time and talents to the Pumpkin Festival, ensuring its success from year to year.

“The best part of this event happens every year; we all feel it in our hearts,” she wrote in her email. “It is the gift of sharing and giving back to our community.”

Williams got the idea for the festival after attending a similar event in California in 1985.

More about the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off

Competitors should bring their pumpkins to the weigh-off site (the Ottertail Community Center parking lot) between 10-11 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 19. Pumpkins must be at least 200 pounds to be eligible for prizes.

Prizes are as follows: First place in the heaviest pumpkin contest will be awarded $450 and a plaque, second place gets $300 and a plaque, and third place gets $150 and a plaque.

The winner of the Howard Dill Award for prettiest pumpkin will receive $300 and a plaque, with the runner-up taking home $150.

The winner of the ugliest pumpkin will get $150 and a plaque.

Random prizes of $150 and $75 will be awarded, as well.

A forklift for the event is being donated by Ottertail Home Center. The crane for the pumpkin drop is being donated by Hammers Construction.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Detroit Lakes Tribune in November 2017 after several years of writing and editing at the Perham Focus. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their young son and daughter, and their yellow Lab.

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