Letter: Many thanks for PumpkinFest participants

To the Editor,

One of the bright things in this strange and challenging autumn was the incredible response to this year’s PumpkinFest, which Westfield on Weekends (WOW) hoped would be an adequate reimagined replacement for our widely popular in-person community event. It just goes to prove that sometimes out of seemingly bad times, something good – even great – can emerge.

Who would have ever thought?!  In 2020, the Scarecrow Trail that was once featured down Elm Street, traveled all over the city with 65 colorful scarecrows on display.  Likewise, our Haunted Houses tour attested to the fact that Westfield residents really know how to create magic with distinctive displays that celebrated the eerie fun of Halloween. Indeed, 51 homes were visited by untold numbers of drive-by families.

Jason Polan, WOW’s incredible Event Director and able chair of PumpkinFest happily reports that our  online map was viewed by over 23,000 folks and that the drive-in movie showing of Hocus Pocus was enjoyed by more than 125 vehicles, filled with happy families. In short, such events proved so popular that WOW has decided to repeat them next year, in addition to what we hope will be an in-person PumpkinFest happening in early October. As I compose this letter of thanks, it strikes me how PumpkinFest 2020 really is a symbol, reflecting why Westfield is such a livable city. Indeed, this grand event would not happen without the assistance of many volunteers, businesses and organizations and I think that these movers and shakers deserve our grateful recognition.

Many thanks to PumpkinFest’s major sponsors. They include bankESB (Easthampton Savings Bank); Baystate Noble Hospital and Baystate Health; Westfield Bank; and Westfield G & E and Whip City Fiber; C &S Wholesale Grocers; Witalisz & Associates;  Reminder Publications; Roots Learning Centers;  L & R Sales; the Greater Westfield Boys and Girls Club; and the City of Westfield. Additional funding was provided by grants from Shurtleff Children’s Services and the Westfield Cultural Council, a local program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council

Our wonderful community partners include Bill Parks and his great staff at the Greater Westfield Boys and Girls Club, who helped produce the Drive-in Movie with the assistance of Jay Pagluica of JP’s Light and Sound and our great Police Department and Police Cadets. Tara Vermette of TruBlu Graphics, fashioned our whimsical logos and graphics while Hope Tremblay, editor of  The Westfield News, not only came to us with the idea of a haunted house tour, but helped get the word out and initiated a roster of houses. Christina Pagella and the staff of Amelia Park Arena created the fantastic Haunted Garden and helped sell our scarecrow making kits and Jennipher McCabe led our scarecrow workshops. Artist Shannon Chiba created three fanciful drawings of pumpkins for our website that children could color, while ArtWorks of Westfield spotlighted their engaging “Heroes are Everywhere” mural.

As always, we are so appreciative of the sound counsel, support and hard work of the City of Westfield – from the Mayor’s Office and Community Development to the Health Department and of course, Police and Fire Departments. In fact, if you saw the seven scarecrows in front of City Hall, they reflected the spirit of every Westfield civil servant. Bravo to all!

A special thank you to Gary Midura, former WOW board member, who envisioned the Scarecrow Trail for WOW more than decade ago and who reimagined it in full bloom this year. Gary spent countless hours creating our scarecrow making kits and facilitating their delivery. It was Gary, who enlisted the help of several kind businesses who helped to secure and cut PVC piping for nearly 300 kits, 240 of which were purchased.  These businesses included: Betts Heating and Plumbing Supplies, Custom Countertops of New England, Wilsonart International and L & R Sales.

Another heartfelt thank you to Heather Witalisz of Witalisz & Associates, a partner on PumpkinFest since its inception in 2017.  Heather produced the PumpkinFest photo contest and a gallery of houses and scarecrows on Facebook, from which residents could vote for their favorites. This year’s winners were the following:  1st Place: Chelsea DeRouchey; 2nd place – Mary Beth Ouimet-Krol; and 3rd place -Bridgette Mulville. Thanks to Ali Salehi and Columbia Manufacturing; the Tavern Restaurant; Pilgrim Candle; and Circuit Coffee, who donated the great prizes.

Heather Witalisz also crafted (with the help of friends and staff) the exceptional Scarecrow Central display which featured individual scarecrows, honoring 34 small businesses, whom we also must acknowledge : Academy Mortgage Corporation; Air Compressor Engineering; Cennamo Construction, Inc.; Brian Pranka Title 5 Inspections; Carpet Wizard Cleaning & Restoration; Cassin/Bates-Fullam Insurance Agency; Empire Movers & Storage; Columbia Manufacturing; Curry Accounting & Tax, LLC.; Danny Nason Photography; Desserts by Monica; Emma’s Everyday Gourmet; Fenton Auto Sales; George’s Auto Body; Gooseberry Farms; Greg Masciadrelli Heating & Air Conditioning;  JDog Junk Removal & Hauling; Law Offices of Kathryn Parakilas, PC; Mac Print & Copy; Moir & Ross PC; Pioneer Valley Property Services; Pilgrim Candle;  Plumbley Lanscaping; Prime Home Services; Prompt Removal Services; Puffer’s Salon & Day Spa; Sarat Ford; Smoke Detector Solutions;  Tavern Restaurant; Tekoa Country Club; Turcotte Electric; Wagner Rug & Flooring; Westfield Feed & Supplies; and Witalisz & Associates.

Heidi Whelan is WOW’s social media guru, who did an excellent job of spreading PumpkinFest       news, while the Tremblay family ( Hope, Ryan and Shane); the Johnson-Corwin family (James, Jennifer, and Ciara);  Lisa and Michael Burns; James Homan; and Jerry Tomasko and his golfing buddies helped fashion the personalized scarecrows that WOW sold as a fundraiser. WOW’s financial experts, Barbara Trant and Sue Jegelewicz helped us to stay within budget and on track, while Ken Stomski of KS Solutions produced our professional video messages.   Also, if you did not get to travel down the Scarecrow Trail, check out the exciting video retrospective posted on the WOW website and on Facebook that was put together by the multi-talented Jason Polan.

Very importantly, WOW is ever thankful to Ann Lentini of Domus, Inc, whose kindness, generosity and community spirit has helped to keep WOW and Westfield Creative Arts afloat in its beautiful downtown space at 105 Elm Street during difficult financial times. In our book, Ann is a Westfield hero.

Three cheers to all the families who made scarecrows and/or transformed their homes into Haunted Houses, as well as the following  36 businesses and organizations that participated in the Scarecrow Trail:

Amelia Park Children’s Museum; Baystate Noble Hospital; Central Baptist Church; Color Street Nails; Community Church of Westfield; Flowers by Webster; Gaslight Entertainment; George’s Jewelers; Grandmother’s Garden; Kimberly Hatch Photography and Kirby Productions;  Mama Cakes;  Park Square  Realty; Westfield Athenaeum; Westfield Bank (4 branches) ; Westfield City Hall; Westfield Evangelical Free Church; Westfield Fire Department, Westfield Lifestyle Magazine; Westfield Museum; Westfield Walmart; Westfield Woman’s Club; Whip City Candle; Piece of My Art Studio; PLAYNOW!;  Rosewood Home & Gifts;  Serendipity Psych; Stanley Park; Shortstop Bar & Grill; Source Hair Salon; Two Rivers Burrito Company;  Vivid Hair Salon & Spa;  and YMCA of Greater Westfield;

I must also send a big thank you to WOW’s volunteer Board of Directors, whose guidance, support and hard work are most appreciated.  My thanks to Amber Danahey, Barbara Trant, Sue Jegelewicz, Jason Polan, Lisa Sunderland Burns, James Johnson-Corwin, Ed Orgill, Ken Stomski and Jerry Tomasko.

PumpkinFest 2020 is now a happy memory, but WOW is using it as a template for future safe and responsible events during COVID times. Stay tuned to  social media and the press for information on our DecemberFest activities: the Holiday Lights Challenge (December 5 thru January 1);  the third annual Tree Jubilee (November 27 – December 6); and Magic on the Air, an exciting  DecemberFest 2020 series of holiday programming throughout the month on WCPC  (Channel 15) community access television and WSKB 89.5 FM radio.  For more information, check out WOW at westfieldonweekends.com and on Facebook.

And should you wish to help WOW keep community events like PumpkinFest alive and well, please feel free to text “GIVE” to 1 (833) 500 -9560.  Many thanks in advance.

One last thought:  I think that PumpkinFest 2020, its Scarecrow Trail and  Haunted Houses tour demonstrate how the power of cultural and community events can help to cheer and even unite our city in the midst of a pandemic and  a contentious election season.  How proud we all can be.  Wow!  There is a “WE” in Westfield!

Be well and here’s to a safe, healthy and loving Thanksgiving!

My best,

Bob Plasse

Co-President, Westfield on Weekends Inc.


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