NORTH SMITHFIELD – After a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the North Smithfield Great Pumpkin Festival is back.
North Smithfield’s longtime fall event will take place this Saturday, Sept. 18, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., at the North Smithfield High School grounds. Admission buttons are available for $2 each at the entrances or $1 each purchased in advance at local businesses.
Elizabeth Featherston, PumpkinFest Committee co-chairperson, said that this year, it’s all about getting back to basics. Many of the event’s vendors, she said, have been with them year after year.
“This is what it’s all about. It’s about the town coming together, being a community, pulling together and coming out to a festival that goes on and will be here next year and the year after,” she said.
As of last week, Featherston said, they had nearly 90 booths registered for the one-day event. Those include craft vendors, local businesses and organizations hosting activities for adults and kids.
“(It’s) a lot of the same groups that we had in the past, the same nonprofits, but we have a lot of new stuff too,” she said.
The new stuff includes barbecue from Johnny’s Victory Diner, which will be offered alongside apple dumplings and empanadas. Visitors will also find activities such as ax throwing and soccer darts, miniature golf, bowling, Candyland, a basketball shootout, archery and a dunk tank sponsored by Camp Phoenix.
“(NSHS Athletic Director Matt) Tek will be in the dunk tank booth at some point, so anybody who wants to come and dunk Mr. Tek, I understand he will be there,” Featherston said.
While most of the setup will remain the same as in past years, Featherston said a few activities have been eliminated this year due to COVID-19, including the bounce house and face painting. Mask wearing is optional, and all activities will take place outside.
Entertainment will include the Jesse Liam Band and local favorite Charlie Marie, along with Bobo the Clown for the kids.
The 3rd annual pumpkin pie bakeoff will also take place, with cash prizes for the top three competitors. Participants can bring their pie and register day-of.
“I know that the judges were getting very excited about the opportunity to try all of the pies that will be coming,” Featherston said.
This year’s event also includes participation by many town offices and groups, including the Parks and Recreation Commission, the North Smithfield Heritage Association, Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski’s office, the Public Art Advisory Committee, the Halliwell Review Committee, the North Smithfield Police Explorers and the North Smithfield Library.
Featherston said she’s excited to get the event back on track, but the committee is looking for more volunteers to help plan next year’s event. The committee currently includes about eight active members who meet monthly beginning in May.
“It’s a lot for those people. If we could get two or three more people on the committee who’d be willing to just put in approximately an hour a month over a year, it would be so much easier,” she said.
She cautioned there will only be three entrance gates this year, instead of four, due to the construction at the NSHS football field.
As in past years, the committee is also sponsoring a scholarship for a NSHS senior and offers grants to local organizations.
“That’s what that day is about,” Featherston said. “Giving back to the community and giving back to the children of North Smithfield.”
PumpkinFest takes place rain or shine. More information is available at www.greatpumpkinfestival.org .