December 2, 2021

It’s all about the pumpkins

Crowds turn out for annual festival in downtown Cortland

Cortland Standard file photo

Katelyn Currie, 10, of Truxton, picks out a pumpkin while at the 2018 Pumpkinfest in Cortland. File photo.

As Elizabeth Maxwell and her mom, Jean, walked around The Great Cortland Pumpkinfest on Saturday afternoon they were on the hunt for anything pumpkin flavored.

“We come every year and it’s always fun to see what the community has to offer,” Elizabeth Maxwell said. Maxwell used to get pumpkin soup at the festival before the vendor that was selling it stopped coming to the festival. Now, she’s looking for a new recipe she can make at home.

“It’s warm, good and just feels like fall,” she said.

Gary Sutton celebrates the festival by walking around as a giant pumpkin. He wears a pumpkin hat and orange sweater. He bought the hat in 1998 and has worn it ever since. Sutton works at the United Presbyterian Church’s table selling its pies and said the outfit has caught the attention of several vendors.

“We have pumpkin pies and I thought it was something appropriate to wear,” he said. “A lot of the vendors were saying, ‘Where’d you get that?’”

Cortland Pumpkinfest, held annually on the first weekend in October in Courthouse Park, was started in 1996 as a way for people in the community to celebrate the harvest season.

Elizabeth Maxwell has attended the fair since she was a young girl.

“It’s sort of a tradition,” she said. “I’ve been doing this since I was a kid. It wouldn’t be right to just let Pumpkinfest go by.”

She also said it’s her and her mother’s time to indulge. They like it because they get to eat as much pumpkin-flavored food as they want.

From pumpkin funnel cake, to fudge, cannoli and pies, pumpkin flavored items were all over the festival.

However, the festival also brought back memories for Elizabeth Maxwell.

“I remember when they used to have the games in the center of the fest,” she said. “They were all pumpkin themed.”

Now a small walk past the rides, dozens of tents, food trucks and pumpkins placed all around and people found the kid zone. It was a giant tent with games just for the youngsters. While there were not real pumpkins being used for the games, like Maxwell remembers, there were still pumpkin-themed games and painted pumpkins lining one side of the tent.

Elliot Davis, 4 and his sister Isla, 3, competed with each other to bob for pumpkins — well, miniature plastic pumpkins.

“Elliot, I’ve never seen you catch so many pumpkins on a stick,” Don Bocian, their grandfather, said.

Both he and their father, Tim Davis, cheered on the two kids as they concentrated on getting as many as possible. By the end they caught about eight together.

For 6-year-old Sophia Ellsworth, her favorite part of the festival was seeing all of the pumpkins, from big to small — both painted and unpainted. Her eyes glossed over and a smile crossed her face as she reached out and picked up a small painted one sitting on a shelf. It had a face with one tooth on it. Other pumpkins were placed all around the fountain in the park.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Sutton said. “I’m glad to see people come around to emphasize pumpkins. We are a pumpkin festival, let’s promote pumpkins.”