I’ve always been a fan of fall. My Irish skin doesn’t fare well in the hot summer months, so when the temperatures begin to dip around 70, my soul lets out a sigh of relief. I don’t know what I like more … the beautiful fall colors, the crisp morning air, the warm smells of comfort food, or just getting outside and enjoying nature one last time before we have to batten down the hatches for another frigid Missouri winter.
I began my career in tourism in St. Joseph during the fall of 1999 at the Pony Express Museum; I served as the marketing mirector. My first responsibility was taking photos for Pony Express PumpkinFest, an annual family arts festival focused on the celebration of the fall harvest which occurs the second full weekend in October. This festival, now in its 16th year, is a true celebration of family.
Perhaps the more impressive part of PumpkinFest is the enormous “Great Pumpkin Mountain,” the heart of the festival. Consisting of hundreds of individually carved and electrically lit jack-o-lanterns, this mountain comes to life on Friday evening, the first night of the festival, at 8 p.m. I’ve simply never seen anything like it. The shape of the mountain has changed from year to year, but the thrill hasn’t. Visitors line up in front of the museum for hours to witness the lighting, and with a flip of a switch everyone feels like a kid again, gazing at the beauty of the intricately carved pumpkins. It’s simply magical.
On the grounds of Patee Park, across the street from the Pony Express Museum, is a fall wonderland. The main stage has almost continuous entertainment; live music, magic shows, storytelling, puppet shows, and much more. Roving entertainers also entertain the crowd during the weekend. There is always a great assortment of unique food and craft vendors. Kids can take part in the crafts and games inside the Children’s Art Tent, get their face painted, have a pony ride, or feed the animals in the petting zoo. Did I mention there is a full carnival full of rides, games and food as well?
It’s simply an amazing weekend, and a great opportunity to get out and enjoy Missouri during her breathtaking fall season. Bring the kids and plan to visit the Pony Express PumpkinFest in St. Joseph, which opens at 5 p.m. on Friday, October 7th and runs through 5 p.m. on Sunday, October 9th.
For more information, please visit www.StJoMo.com/PumpkinFest.
Written by Beth Conway, communications director, St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau.