December 5, 2021

Pumpkinfest in running for nation’s best fall fest

Cortland Standard file photo

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

The Great Cortland Pumpkinfest has been nominated for USA Today’s 2019 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards contest for best fall festival in the nation and a Cortland County tourism official is urging people to vote for the festival on the 10Best website.

The reward isn’t much more than bragging rights and free publicity, but it puts Cortland’s pumpkins up against The New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival in Laconia, N.H., the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the National Apple Harvest Festival of Biglerville, Pa., and the World Championship Punkin Chunkin in Rantoul, Ill., wherever that is.

USA Today selects 20 nominees in contests covering food, lodging, destinations, travel gear, things to do and other categories. The readers make the final decision.

How to vote

• People can vote once per day for the best fall festival at USA Today’s 2019 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards at

• Voting began Monday and ends at noon Aug. 26.

“A nomination of this stature, on the national level, is a testament to the work of the Great Cortland Pumpkinfest Committee,” said Meghan Lawton, executive director of the Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau, in a news release.

“Having been part of a 10Best Award Winning Category before, I know just how special a nomination of this level is.” Lawton, who was hired in Cortland in July 2018, was the director of tourism for Wyoming County in 2015 when Letchworth State Park was named the best state park in the county in a similar USA Today poll.

She is using that experience in the pursuit of the award for the Pumpkinfest, which was in fourth place in the voting this morning.

“We are trying to get the word out to as many people as we can to vote,” Lawton said. Her office quickly posted the information about the poll through Facebook and is preparing to post it through other social media. The Pumpkinfest Committee is doing the same, she said.

“The pushes we did on social media and the continued knowledge of making people aware of what is going on is a big part of the success story to get the recognition for Letchworth,” Lawton said.

The bureau’s Facebook page saw more than 1,500 visits by Tuesday, about five times the usual number, she said.

The direct link to vote can also be found on the Facebook pages of both Experience Cortland: The Cortland County Convention & Visitors Bureau and The Great Cortland Pumpkinfest. The winning festival will be announced Sept. 6.

“For more than 20 years, the Pumpkinfest has showcased the area’s talented craftspeople, regional delicacies, entertainment, and so much more,” Liz Cole and Mindy Stevenson, co-chairs of the Pumpkinfest Committee, said in a release. “It is not only a fun-filled family weekend, but a window into what the area has to offer.”

Cole and Stevenson said this morning they hope the publicity will help attendance, from across the state and beyond.

“It’s getting the word out on social media,” Stevenson said. “We hope people will be encouraged to bring their friends and family.”

“It gave a boost to our committee, too,” Stevenson added.

Hundreds of volunteers have worked to put on the two-day pumpkinfest in Courthouse Park in downtown Cortland every October since 1996.

It has featured scores of vendors selling food, arts and crafts; games for children; a pumpkin contest; and horse-drawn hay rides through the streets of the city.

The 2019 Great Cortland Pumpkinfest will take place Oct. 5 and 6 at Courthouse Park in Cortland. For details, visit