Remembering Pumpkinfests Past

Pumpkinfest is but one more causality of COVID-19 this year. While there are plans to bring it back better than ever next year, this year it is but a ghost that hovers over the city. What better time to reminisce about memorable events in previous years. For Pumpkinfest has a long history, bringing many great memories to residents and visitors alike.

“Main Street Festival and Pumpkinfest were started in 1983 as part of the Downtown Franklin Association (DFA), with the goal of driving tourism and economic vitality to a developing city,” said Carla Denham, Chief Strategy and Communications Officer, Heritage Foundation. “Dickens of a Christmas started a year later.”

Always having a focus on the family, it has become Middle Tennessee’s largest family festival with an attendance of 65,000 in 2019. It takes place in and around eight blocks surrounding the Franklin’s city square.

There have always been kid’s activities over the years, including face painting, bounce houses, games, and pony rides. Lots of photo ops, live entertainment, find crafts, food, libations, and – of course — costume contests. The annual costume contest is divided into categories, including by ages, adults, groups, and pets. This year, the costume contest took place virtually.

One returning favorite is pumpkin carving by the Lieper’s Fork Carving Club. As has been the arrival of the “Great Pumpkin,” from Franklin’s Sister City in Canada, Carleton Place, Ontario.

Every year has brought new ideas and new experiences. There have been raffles, hayrides, cloggers, and circus performers. There have even been visits by the Tennessee Ghost Busters and the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man.

When the Tennessee Ghost Busters participated in the festival in 2016, they had a booth where they taught kids how to make slime. However, Slimer did not make an appearance.

A raffle for $10,000 was part of the Fest in 2008. There were 400 tickets available for $100 each, and the winning ticket took the prize. Another highlight of that year was the Tennessee Tomorrow Chili Cook-off, which they sponsored for many years, but it is now staged by the Downtown Franklin Rotary Club.

“That was lots of fun and brought tons of people together, which is part of Franklin Tomorrow’s mission,” said Mindy Tate, Executive Director, on their Facebook page.

Not all years went as planned.

“I was co-chairman of the festival in 1993,” said Linda Jackson Carden. “Our committee worked for months planning the event, only to have the festival ruined by the weather. Temperatures dropped into low 30s, and there was sleet and ice all day. Worst weather I have ever seen on Halloween!”

Thirty-six years later, the DFA is one of the Heritage Foundation’s divisions and is still focused on the continued revitalization of downtown.