On Oct. 27, members of the community of Phoenixville celebrated the fall season with the borough’s second Pumpkin Festival. Hosted by RISE, which is an organization made up of Phoenixville area churches, the event and its many activities took place all afternoon along Main Street, as well as in the parking lot of Bridge and Main Streets.
Attendees enjoyed a variety of entertainment, food, games and contests, all centering around a pumpkin theme.
Activities for children included pumpkin put-put, as well as face painting and bounce houses. The biggest events of the day were the Pumpkin Derby and the live Expert Pumpkin Carving competition. Other carving contests were also held at Bridge Street and Main Street businesses. There was also a raffle with prizes donated by Phoenixville businesses.
Entertainment included several bands that played throughout the festival on a large stage set up in the parking lot across from Molly Maguire’s.
Another major feature was a “Pumpkin Dish” competition, where five area restaurants each created a pumpkin dish that people could stop in and sample, and then vote for the best dish via text message. The participating restaurants were Thai L’Elephant, Bistro on Bridge, The Black Lab Bistro, Marly’s BYOB and Pepperoncini Sotto.
Coordinator of the event Krissy Pesnell said she came up with the idea for a pumpkin festival after planning a neighborhood pumpkin-carving gathering. Pesnell said she loves to plan parties and first thought of holding a block party, then later thought of moving it to a local park.
“It kind of took off without me,” remarked Pesnell. “Every fall, one of my favorite things to do is carve pumpkins and make pumpkin soup. I just love pumpkins. We tried it first in 2011 and I didn’t anticipate such a good response. I don’t know why I was surprised, Halloween happens to be the number two holiday. It’s really not even about Halloween, it’s just about pumpkins.”
The Pumpkin Derby involved participants building a car out of a pumpkin, and then racing it in a speedway set up on Main Street. There were several different heats of the derby and dozens of creatively built and decorated pumpkin cars.
Pesnell’s husband Darin said derby teams had to adhere to rules when creating their pumpkin derby vehicle.
“You had to build one out of a pumpkin (and) you’ve got to puncture it with at least one axel. The pumpkin basically forms the chasse, you can’t have an external chasse. Then we have “Cheaters”, people who have maybe broken a rule, and we’re having our special “Cheater Race.” Every cheater will get smashed with a “mallet of justice” (at the end of the race),” said Darin.
Prizes were awarded to winners, including the grand prize of an iPod Mini.
“The neat thing about this event is the churches and the businesses coming together to really put on a great event for the town. We have a lot of business sponsors. Basically every prize except (for) the derby, was all donated,” Darin said.
Event host RISE is made up by Iron Works Church, Grace Crossing Community Church, Grace Valley Fellowship, River Crossing Community Church and Calvary Bible Church.
Krissy said the group wanted to serve and engage the community through activities such as the Pumpkin Festival.
“We just want to let people know we are here and we love this town. We didn’t want to make it overtly religious, we want to build a relationship to the people and to the culture. I think in a lot of ways you earn the right to share your faith,” said Krissy.
Krissy also noted that she hopes the festival will become an annual event for the community.
“We’re working with the town for it to become annual and for it to be officially on their list of Phoenixville events. I think it’s great for the community because we really worked hard and it’s really been my goal to try and incorporate everybody. I’ve really gone out and tried to work for it to benefit the businesses.”
She added that she has tried to gear it to everyone – whether they are single or married with children or “whatever you’re at in the community”.
“Phoenixville is unique in that it’s really all about community. The people that live here they love community, it’s one of the reasons we moved here from New York City. I’m hoping that we’re going to continue to do this in the future as a RISE event and have more people come up with ideas from the community that we can do as a group. I think that’s really what the festival is about, different groups and different people, including different churches, coming together and say we can work together for the community.”
She said the goal was to get over 1000 people for the day, and believes they accomplished that.
“It can only grow from here,” Krissy stated.
Said Darin, “We think it’s fantastic, fall is a great time. What’s neat about (the Pumpkin Festival) is that it invites participation. This event was birthed out of (the churches) wanting to work with (the community) to do something that’ll be fun. The businesses have responded so well. This is also kind of unprecedented for five churches to work together, different denominations. It’s really a special thing. We are a united by a love for the gospel and a love for Phoenixville.”