Bull riding, hot air balloon return to Pumpkinfest; Sponsors needed for 2022 event

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Planning for North Smithfield’s 2022 Great Pumpkin Festival is well underway, with a long list of vendors already signed on, bringing all of the unique activities, entertainment and fall treats guests have come to expect from the event – and then some.

But the list of sponsors is shorter than hoped for this year, according to festival Chairperson Elizabeth Featherston.

The event, set to take place on Saturday Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the grounds of North Smithfield High School, brought out roughly 5,200 guests in 2021. Featherston said she’s hopeful to exceed that turnout in 2022, and is already mapping out dozens of vendor booths, with participation by local businesses, school and town groups, and other nonprofits.

“We had a phenomenal turnout last year,” said Featherston. “I was really excited about the amount of people, the camaraderie, the family atmosphere. I’m hoping it’s even better this year.”

The activities at Pumpkinfest make the annual family festival stand out from others of its kind, and 2022 will be no exception. Two favorites: bull riding and Remax hot air balloon rides, are returning to the event this year. The fun features will be added to an already long list of Pumpkinfest regulars, from a petting zoo and kids’ games, to a pumpkin pie baking contest. Remote control cars, mini-golf and bounce houses will compliment a bevy of free activities offered for the younger kids.

That affordability – with a low entry fee complimented by many things to do free of charge – has also made North Smithfield’s fall festival stand out over its now 15 year history. That may be a bit of a challenge in 2022 if more sponsors don’t come forward, according to the chairperson.

“The festival utilizes sponsors, so the cost of admission is $1 per person. Unfortunately, sponsors are a little light this year,” Featherston said. “We’re going to work with what we have and push through.”

Sponsors signed on include Waterson Terminal Services; Stanley Tree; United Rentals; National Marker; The North Smithfield Pulse; The Stearns/McGee Team; Coffee Hour Marketing; BL Beauty; Material Sand & Stone; and WOON Radio.

Featherston said there’s plenty of space for more, and that those who can’t provide funding are welcome to sponsor goods and services.

“We’re always looking for that too,” she said.

More vendors are also still welcome, right up until the deadline of Thursday, Sept. 1. Booths cost $65 for businesses and individuals, and $35 for non-profit vendors.

This year, Featherston said she expects to see all of the regular vendor booths, plus some newcomers. North Smithfield Fire & Rescue will bring its smokehouse to the event, and kids can play in a sandbox, or visit Bobo the Clown. There will be martial arts & dance demonstrations, and a covered eating area where guests can sit and listen to live entertainment. Treats on sale will include lemonade, apple dumplings, ice cream, doughboys, clam fritters, hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries and much more.

Animal attendees will include alpacas from a local farm and visitors from Southwick’s Zoo’s traveling Zoomobile.

“Children of all ages can pet, and cuddle, and learn about different animals,” Featherston said.

Headlining the entertainment is Worcester-based folk and blues act Colt & the Coyotes, with a full lineup of bands playing the Pumpkinfest stage throughout the day.

And, of course, there will be pumpkins, with gourds for painting, decoration and a baking contest with 1st, 2nd and 3rd place cash prizes.

The pumpkins won’t, however, be flying through the air as many have in past years. Featherston said the pumpkin-chucking trebuchet, built by a NSHS student as part of a senior project many years ago, is now in need of serious maintenance – or replacement.

“We have chucked our last pumpkin for the time being,” she said.

Things will also be a little different as far as festival entry in 2022, with buttons sold only at the gate, rather than in advance. Featherston said the festival committee has found that working with local stores to collect the funds creates extra work.

The event marks a big effort for the volunteer group, for a day of family fun that draws in crowds of up to 6,000 visitors. She notes more help is always needed to help the festival succeed and grow.

“We have so new committee members this year, which we’re very excited about,” Featherston said.

Those who would like to participate, helping with donations, vendor booths, sponsorships or volunteer time can submit applications and more online at greatpumpkinfestival.org/.

“I’m excited we’re going to have a really good day,” said Featherston.

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