The unseasonably warm weather, peoples’ desire to be outdoors and the “buzz” in the city attracted record crowds last weekend to the 10th annual Operation Pumpkin in downtown Hamilton.
After the event was scaled back last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, Operation Pumpkin returned to its usual format this year, said Paige Hufford, co-chair of the event with Jason Snyder.
She estimated Saturday’s crowd at 20,000 and close to 40,000 for the three-day event that concluded Sunday night.
Hufford said the pumpkin festival provides an opportunity to highlight the locally-owned downtown businesses.
“That’s our mission,” said Hufford, who thanked her 16-person committee.
Sara Vallandingham, owner of Sara’s House, a specialty boutique downtown, said sales in her store during the pumpkin event set records, even more than Black Friday and Small Business Saturday.
“It was like that for a lot of the business owners I talked to,” Vallandingham said. “There is a certain buzz downtown and I think people wanted to come see for themselves.”
Hufford said the event saw its largest pumpkin in its history, weighing more than 2,000 pounds. Besides the pumpkin patch that featured giant and carved pumpkins, other activities included a pet parade, arts and crafts, live bands, food and beverage booths, and a kid zone along High Street.
She called Operation Pumpkin “a real staple event” in Hamilton.
“We’re at a point where people look forward to our event,” said Hufford, who said the 11th annual Operation Pumpkin will be the second weekend next October. “It just seems to get bigger and draw more people throughout the region.”
Everyone on the committee takes notes throughout the event and suggests ways to improve it every year, Hufford said. The committee also surveys vendors and downtown businesses to see if they have any suggestions, she said.
“It’s all about growing the event and making it better for the community,” she said.