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Photo illustration of fall decorations.

Annual Pumpkin Fest to provide family-friendly Halloween activities

Halloween is right around the corner, and if someone hasn’t gotten a chance to carve a jack-o-lantern yet, attending the Pumpkin Fest this weekend could be a great opportunity to do just that.

Attendees of the annual Pumpkin Fest can explore The Dairy Barn Arts Center property inside and out, as well as enjoy holiday crafts and activities with their families. Chesterhill Produce Auction will be on site with its gourd and pumpkin sale, and the Hutchison Horses will be there as well to provide carriage rides. The Pumpkin Fest will take place Saturday afternoon.

Lyn Stanton, the education director of The Dairy Barn, sees the Pumpkin Fest as a safe event for families in Athens.

“In Athens, a lot of activities are college student-focused,” Stanton said. “The Dairy Barn wanted to make sure there was a place with very little financial investment that families could come to and enjoy during the holiday season.”

For any families who want to make the Pumpkin Fest an all-day excursion, The Dairy Barn will be offering a guided morning hike on their brand new Ora E. Anderson Nature Trail, as well as sunset yoga when the event ends.

“The Ora Anderson trail is just under a mile long, and took us about a year to make. We’re just now getting the signs into place, which is very exciting,” Stanton said. “Weather dependent, we’re also going to have sunset yoga. We want to do it up on a hill behind the Dairy Barn where you can overlook the whole city.”

During the actual Pumpkin Fest itself, usually a family’s first stop is to purchase a pumpkin, Stanton said. Once volunteers are finished helping children scoop the goop out of their pumpkins, someone from Rural Action, a nongovernmental organization working in Appalachian Ohio, will take all that compost and give it to local farmers to feed their livestock.

“It’s a lot of organic waste from pumpkins, which is a shame to just throw in a dumpster,” Stanton said. “So we don’t. We give it to a place where it can be used.”

Children can then take their hollowed-out pumpkins and either carve them with assistance from other volunteers or decorate them with paint, sequins and feathers. All the while, there will be free carriage rides provided by the Hutchison Horses.

“It’s a 25-minute horse ride that goes down Dairy Lane and makes a loop at the base of The Ridges,” Stanton said. “It’s something nice kids get to do during the day.”

While attendees are enjoying the Pumpkin Fest, they’re also encouraged to check out the WideOpen photo exhibit being shown at The Dairy Barn. 

Stanton is most excited to see some familiar faces at this weekend’s event, in hopes to catch up on how families are doing.

“I like seeing all the children and checking in on how everyone’s school year is going,” Stanton said. “I also can’t wait to meet some new people and hopefully get them interested in The Dairy Barn and what we offer here.”

Tom Redfern, the director of sustainable agriculture and forestry at Rural Action, is looking forward to selling pumpkins and other fall produce on behalf of the Chesterhill Produce Auction.

“We sold over 100 pumpkins last year, and we’re expecting more this year, plus a little extra produce,” Redfern said. “There will be more edible fall produce this year, including apples and butternut squash we hope that will sell well.”

The Chesterhill Produce Auction has been a part of the Pumpkin Fest for almost eight years now, Redfern said, and The Dairy Barn has been a great partner for their business.

“It’s such a good opportunity to connect local farmers with the Pumpkin Fest event,” Redfern said. “It’s very well-attended and fun for the whole family.”

Evelyn Nagy, owner of the Holy Guacamole food truck, is planning on attending the Pumpkin Fest this year.

“It's a real celebration of fall and all things pumpkin,” Nagy said. “There are so many fun activities for the kids. It really kicks off the season for me.”


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