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February 13, 2014

Chamber to replace PumpkinFest

'Fall in Cooperstown' scheduled for early October

Cooperstown PumpkinFest is no more, but a new Cooperstown festival will take its place.

“We’re making changes to better focus on Cooperstown,” said Cooperstown Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Patricia Szarpa.

Since 2004, the chamber has organized Cooperstown PumpkinFest, a September festival that saw growers of giant pumpkins from around New York and beyond converge on Doubleday Field’s parking lot to have their pumpkins judged in a weigh-off

Last year’s winning pumpkin weighed 1,548.5 pounds and its grower, Todd Brownell of Edinburg, won the $2,000 grand prize. There were also prizes for growers of other giant produce, and a number of side events and vendors of food and crafts.

Perhaps PumpkinFest’s most iconic event was the Pumpkin Regatta, where giant pumpkins were hollowed out and raced on Otsego Lake in a series of races.

Szarpa said, however, that the attendance at PumpkinFest has declined over the years, and that local businesses were dissatisfied by its economic impact. Specifically, she said those who brought the pumpkins hadn’t been staying overnight and frequenting local businesses enough.

“We thought that they would be staying longer,” Szarpa said, adding that attendees had tended to keep to the event’s location in the Doubleday parking lot. “It took away from our restaurants and Main Street.”

She also said that the Chamber was dissatisfied with some of the costs associated with putting on PumpkinFest, such as the minimum of $7,000 in prize money that had needed to be provided each year for the contest, and the equipment that needed to be rented to weigh the pumpkins.

“It became a cost-prohibitive venture,” Szarpa said.

Because of this, Szarpa said, the Chamber has decided to run a different fall event this year, called “Fall Into Cooperstown … Where Pumpkins Fly.”

“It’ll have a different focus,” Szarpa said.

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