WESTFIELD – There’s nothing like fall in New England.
Brilliantly colored leaves, apple cider and corn stalks are mandatory components of harvest celebrations. And then, there are the pumpkins.
The pumpkin has long been the quintessential mascot for autumn, and Westfield will pay homage to the symbolic squash with Westfield on Weekends’ third annual PumpkinFest Oct. 19.
This year, the event will be even more focused on children and families, said co-chair Robert Plasse. He and fellow co-chairs, Jason Polan and Heather White, along with the many WOW volunteers, have created an event that draws thousands of visitors to downtown Westfield, especially families with children.
All activities for children are free, including pumpkins to decorate and display on Park Square Green.
“We will be giving out more than 700 pumpkins, provided by individual donors as well as the Varelas family from The Good Table,” Plasse said.
The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield volunteers will begin scooping out the pumpkins at 7 a.m. Saturday so they are ready for carving by the time PumpkinFest begins at noon.
Westfield Gas & Electric will bring its Big Rig Rally to the event. Plasse said not only will children have the opportunity to touch the large trucks and climb aboard, but they can also meet and speak with the vehicle operators and learn about their jobs.
Westfield elementary school students have been creating scarecrow drawings for the PumpkinFest Scarecrow Trail.
“The pictures will be displayed along Elm Street, from the Westfield Athenaeum all the way to the WOW Creative Arts Center,” said Plasse. “It’s a scavenger hunt for students to find their picture.”
Children who participate in the Scarecrow Trail and decorate a pumpkin will receive a free raffle ticket. This year’s raffles include family trips to New York and Boston, as well as memberships to the Amelia Park Children’s Museum, Westfield YMCA and more.
“We have great raffle prizes and the money we make from raffle ticket sales goes right back to WOW’s community events like PumpkinFest,” said Plasse.
Vendors and pumpkins will be located on Park Square Green this year. Many vendors will have activities and games for families and professional performers will entertain crowds.
“We also have the Westfield High School Show Choir and band performing, as well as a special performance from All Stars Dance Center,” said Plasse.
New this year is the Roots Learning Center-sponsored Trunk or Treat along Elm Street.
“We want children to come and preview their Halloween costumes,” said Plasse. “We will have many trunks decorated and there will be plenty of candy.”
Westfield ArtWorks will host its annual ArtWalk during PumpkinFest. In addition to artists, ArtWalk will also feature 10 authors Saturday. And while there was no requirement to display works with a Halloween slant, many artists and authors have chosen to present an autumnal exhibit, said Plasse.
“The Pottery Cellar and JoJo’s Rustic Remnants are sponsoring the Harvest Market this year, which will have over 40 vendors from Arnold to Franklin streets,” Plasse said. “And the Harvest Market opens at 11 a.m. – one hour earlier than PumpkinFest.”
Throughout the event, the Westfield Athenaeum will host an escape room and scavenger hunt as well as its annual Toy, Book and Jewelry Sale.
Food vendors will sell seasonal fare and more.
Plasse said an event as big as PumpkinFest could not happen without volunteers and the support of the community. He said the city has been particularly helpful in planning the event.
“This happens because of our volunteers and sponsors and city departments, especially the Department of Public Works, Police, Community Development and Parks and Recreation,” said Plasse. “From the mayor’s office down, they have all been very generous in helping us produce this great event.”
Plasse said PumpkinFest evolved from the former Colonial Harvest Day.
“We drew about 1,500 people to that event,” Plasse recalled. “But we had that many people in the first hour or two of PumpkinFest. Families really enjoy it and can really spend the whole day there. It’s one giant cornucopia of family fun.”
PumpkinFest is Saturday on Elm Street from Park Square Green to Franklin Street from 12-6 p.m.