By Bera Dunau STAFF WRITER
---- — 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.
In a release to chamber members, provided to The Cooperstown Crier, the intent of the festival was described as transforming Cooperstown into a, “magical fall-inspired village.”
Szarpa said that the new festival is planned for the first week in October, in order to capture a fall atmosphere, while not competing with Columbus Day and Halloween.
“We wanted to give it the October flavor,” Szarpa said.
She also said that Fall Into Cooperstown will try to draw more people to Cooperstown’s businesses, and increase the number of visitors who choose to stay overnight.
“The entire focus won’t be the giants,” Szarpa said. “I think we are going to be replacing it (PumpkinFest) with events of better quality. We’ll have other exciting contests involving pumpkins.”
One pumpkin focused event will be an attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest line of carved pumpkins. The record stands at 1,301, and the Chamber’s plan is to enlist the community to participate in the carving.
As the festival’s title suggests, one of its events will involve launching pumpkins into the air.
“We will have pumpkins flying in some way, shape or form,” Szarpa said, who said that the method for their launching was still being worked out.
In terms of non-pumpkin related events, the release says that the Chamber plans to partner with local attractions to provide themed theater performances and movie showings, ghost tours and drink options, among other possibilities. There will also be what the release describes as an “unFairground,” which will feature such activities as giant lawn bowling, corn husk doll making and spin art.
Szarpa said more details will be released soon.