Scarecrow competition, Haunted Trail added to free Pumpkin Fest fun in 2018

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BURRILLVILLE – Downtown Pascoag will be transformed into a free family-friendly festival of frights on Saturday, Oct. 27, from scarecrows donning threads meant to impress judges and a bridge lit up with decorated gourds, to a trail full of spooks.

The Downtown Pascoag Neighborhood Association will host Pumpkin Fest in the area surrounding The Bridgeway from 5 to 8 p.m. that evening. But preparation for the event starts this weekend with a scarecrow registration and pumpkin pickup event in the same area beside the Pascoag Post Office Saturday morning from 9 to 11 a.m.

Families can pick up a pumpkin to decorate for the event this Saturday for $5, or bring one from home to the festival next week. Pumpkins will be judged in six categories –Scariest, Funniest, Best in Show, Kids 6 and Under, Businesses and Most Original – with the winners to take home trophies.

Scarecrows registered for $5 on Saturday morning, Oct. 20 will also be judged on Oct. 27, with the best overall scarecrow to win a trophy and gift pack.

The village’s Halloween event is open to anyone who wants to participate, with guests from neighboring communities often taking part in the fall fun. Pumpkin Fest was originally started by a group of students, but taken over by volunteers from DPNA in 2007.

“It started when I was in high school,” said current DPNA President Courtney Gath, who joined the group several years ago.

“It is something that me and my kids have enjoyed doing,” said Gath. “Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I thought it would be nice to help people pay attention to our town, and to bring people in.”

The group also puts on the village’s annual Victorian Holiday in the same section of downtown Pascoag.

The small five-member committee coordinates both events with other local organizations including Boy Scouts and the Pascoag Fire Department, which houses some vendors for the Victorian Holiday and provides vehicles for the fire truck parade.

The Downtown Pascoag Neighborhood Association, from left in back are President Courtney Gath, Vice President Chris St. Amant, Treasurer Ray Daignault, and Secretary MaryAnn Lambert. In front is Business Liaison Amanda Desjardins.

Around 20 vendors are expected to take part in Pumpkin Fest, with local crafters, businesses and food makers lined up throughout the village. Kids are invited to trick or treat at the vendor booths and participants are asked to wear a costume, or at least show off their best festive fall outfit.

“We have some vendors that have done every single event since we started,” said Gath.

The local Dunkin Donuts will offer free donut decorating at the festival, and IGA will have free cider and pastries. A middle school student will be doing free face painting. At the DPNA table, families can sign up to receive Santa gifts for their children at Victorian Holiday in November.

The Haunted Trail, which was just a small feature consisting of a troll by accepting golden tokens, returns in full force in 2018 by the bridge the runs behind Well One.

The trail is also free, making the event a low-cost way for the community to celebrate the season.

“It’s an event where you can see families that you don’t normally see out,” said Amanda Desjardins, DPNA’s business liaison.

“This entire block is full of kids, and costumes, and they’re safe,” said Gath.

The event has been growing over the past few years, with the number of participants in the pumpkin contest at one point exceeding 100. The pumpkins, which must be registered by 5 p.m. to be entered in the contest, are taken home after the festival.

DPNA is always seeking additional volunteers and offers certificates of participation for community service hours. Recently, the group has started to host fundraising events throughout the year, including an ice cream social during the summer and an upcoming “Victorian Tea.”

Pumpkin pickup and scarecrow registration will take place in downtown Pascoag on Saturday, Oct. 20 from 9 to 11 a.m. with the festival itself to be held at the same location the following Saturday, Oct. 27, from 5 to 8 p.m.