60K people expected to visit this weekend’s Operation Pumpkin, which will be even bigger

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

HAMILTON — While the main focus of Operation Pumpkin continues to be the giant pumpkins, the 12th annual festival will see significant growth.

Operation Pumpkin Festival runs from Friday to Sunday in downtown Hamilton where around 60,000 people will celebrate all things fall and pumpkins.

“It gives us an opportunity to bring about 60,000 people into downtown just in one weekend,” said Operation Pumpkin Festival marketing director Jodi Fritsch. “It allows the city to show off the great revitalization in the community and the development of new opportunities. I think offering different events and bringing people into town is always positive.”

This year, the festival’s footprint has expanded, allowing for some restructuring of activities and more activities.

Fritsch said they extended the footprint down to Market Street and took over quite a bit of Court Street. Court Street will be where some of the rides will be, and the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth-sanctioned weigh-off will be close to the intersection of High Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

The Fitton Center is a partner with Operation Pumpkin and inside the festival’s Kid Zone will be the Fitton Family Fun Zone on Court Street at South Second Street that will feature more family-friendly programming, specifically Miss Jonie, Zak Morgan and D.J. Christian. On Saturday and Sunday, the Fun Zone will also feature the inaugural Fitton Center’s Munchkin Pumpkin Derby, which is free to create, race, and keep the munchkin pumpkins inside the race cars.

“It’s a massive community event organized by the community ― with an all-volunteer committee and staff ― for the community,” Fitton Center Executive Director Ian MacKenzie-Thurley said. “As you have seen over the last 12 years, the massive revival that’s happened in Hamilton and coming to downtown and enjoying, particularly High Street and now over into Main Street, the energy of being in a beautiful, historic downtown such as Hamilton that’s incredibly welcoming and fun with so much to see and do over a three day period has really been magnificent for the city and for the community.”

The event’s two primary stages will be the Hometown Stage at North Second and Market streets and feature 13 local bands playing all weekend. The main stage on High Street will feature live entertainment all weekend, including headliners My Girl Friday on Friday, the Michelle Robinson Band on Saturday, and The Wonderlands on Sunday.

There will also be the Pet Parade and Lil’ Miss Punkin Contest on Sunday.

The expansion of the festival has also allowed about 60 more food and artisan vendors, bringing the total up to 150 for the 2023 festival.

“The central focus of this festival continues to be the giant pumpkins and extremely talented sculptors that make this festival a unique and special experience for everyone that visits,” said Jason Snyder, co-chair of Operation Pumpkin Festival, which was voted the best annual festival in the Best of Butler County its 2023 survey.

The marquee event on Friday will be the award-winning pumpkin weigh-off. In 2022, a site record was set by Frank Morse for his giant pumpkin that weighed in at 2,350 pounds, which was a state record for Michigan. This year, Operation Pumpkin will award $35,000 in prize money to the top 25 growers.

They are still accepting applications for the Pet Parade and Lil’ Miss Punkin Content, and there are opportunities for the community to volunteer at the event. Sign up at at www.operation-pumpkin.org.

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