More than 40,000 residents and visitors are expected at the annual Operation Pumpkin festival, which will be held on Friday through Sunday, Oct. 11-13.
“Operation Pumpkin is one of Butler County’s premier festivals, and it continues to bring people to downtown Hamilton,” said Jodi Fritsch, marketing director, Operation Pumpkin. “It’s something that everyone looks forward to each year.”
The weekend’s festivities will focus on all-things pumpkin, including sculpted pumpkins, a giant pumpkin weigh-off, decorated pumpkins, a Lil’ Miss Punkin contest, a pet parade, an expanded Kid’s Zone and live entertainment.
“I get really excited about all of the pumpkins. I think it’s amazing that every fourth-grader will have a pumpkin to decorate, and the giant, sculpted pumpkins, and what they are able to do is phenomenal. They are complete masterpieces.”
Operation Pumpkin is a sanctioned event by the Southern Ohio Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, and there will be giant pumpkin weigh-offs, which will begin on Friday afternoon. (Other categories like watermelon will be held on Saturday at 2 p.m.) Competitors will have pumpkins on display that weigh up to 2,000 pounds or more, as well as watermelons, tomatoes and long gourds. The giant pumpkin weigh-off is expected to have around 25 to 35 different entries.
The current site record for a pumpkin is 2,043.5 pounds. Operation Pumpkin holds the world record for the largest watermelon at 350.5 pounds.
As a centerpiece of the art and pumpkin festival, the giant pumpkin and other category weigh-offs have moved to High Street. There will be about 40 huge sculpted pumpkins on display, a Great Wall of Pumpkins, 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.
The entertainment lineup includes headliners Naked Karate Girls on Friday at 7 p.m.; Free Fallin: A Tribute to Tom Petty on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and Dangerous Jim and the Slims on Sunday at 2 p.m.
The festival also will hold the annual Lil’ Miss Punkin crowning on Saturday at 2 p.m. and a Pet Parade on Sunday at noon. Pets (and their owners) also can compete in a costume contest with prizes.
An expanded Kid’s Zone will be held at Rotary Park and in the surrounding areas. Home Depot and The Fitton Center for Creative Arts will offer free crafts throughout the weekend. The area will be packed with things for children and families to do, including bouncy houses, carnival games, a straw maze, entertainers from the Cincinnati Circus Company and more. Plus, there’s a petting zoo on Saturday. Similar to a mechanical bull, young guests can look for a giant Pumpkin Ride on Sunday.
Beer and wine will be available, and more than 100 food and artisan vendors will participate. Local artisans will offer jewelry, distinctive artwork, vintage clothing, antique and re-purposed furniture and more.
The festival was started in 2012 by husband and wife, co-chairs Jason and Tammy Snyder. About 15 volunteers serve on the festival’s planning committee, and more than 100 volunteers help out over the course of the weekend.
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