By DENNIS WYATT
Manteca’s Sunrise Kiwanis are on a roll. More precisely, they are on a pumpkin roll.
The service club is staging the 35th edition of the Manteca Pumpkin Fair in downtown Manteca on Saturday, Oct. 6, and Sunday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The free event takes place in the triangle formed by Yosemite Avenue, Center Street, and the Union Pacific Railroad.
The Pumpkin Fair Carnival is back with a new vendor at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley at the 120 Bypass and Union Road on Thursday, Oct. 4 through Sunday, Oct. 7.
The Pumpkin Fair is one of the oldest festivals in the 209 with roots stretching back 52 years when it was started by the Manteca Pumpkin Growers who were a tad miffed that Half Moon Bay south of San Francisco had the audacity to stage a pumpkin festival and proclaim themselves “The Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
While Manteca farmers would never back such an outlandish boast knowing Ohio is where the biggest concentration of pumpkins are grown in the United States, they easily can claim bragging rights for California given eight out of every 10 commercially grown pumpkins in the Golden State come from the fields around Manteca.
So Manteca’s Pumpkin Growers put together a small, one-day event that consisted of staking hay bales covered with pumpkins in Library Park in downtown Manteca. The entertainment was low key although a belly dancer secured by a friend of the farmers gave the fair a unique twist.
People Magazine caught wind of the playful tiff between the two communities plastering it on their front cover as their lead feature.
The Pumpkin Fair this year will take place in conjunction with the Manteca Mural Society’s Mural in a Day project. Members of the community are helping muralist Dave Gordon on both days paint a mural marking the true completion of the Transcontinental Railroad on the east facing wall of The Spin Cycle in the 100 block of East Yosemite.
While the Union Pacific and Central Pacific met in Promontory Point, Utah on May 10, 1869 to drive the Golden Spike it wasn’t until Sept. 18, 1869 when the bridge at Mossdale Crossing in neighboring Lathrop was completed across the San Joaquin River that you could take a train from New York City all the way to San Francisco.
The Pumpkin Fair itself features more than 150 vendors.
The heart of the Pumpkin Fair is still Library Park where there are free kids games such as a pumpkin pie eating contest, pumpkin rolling, and pumpkin seed spitting among others. Plus there is free face painting.
There are two entertainment stages — the Community Stage and the Main Stage. Both have full entertainment line ups for each day of the fair.
The Main Stage is by Wilson Park where there is also a beer garden. On Saturday, Oct. 6, after dark falls a free show of the movie “Hocus Pocus” will take place in Wilson Park.
There is also a haunted house plus a car show on Sunday, Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The growers handed off the Pumpkin Fair to the Manteca Jaycees after a few years. The Jaycees staged the fair before handing it off 35 years ago to the Sunrise Kiwanis. Since the Kiwanis took over they have raised more than $1 million to support community non-profits.
For more information go to mantecapumpkinfair.org.