Neighbors who’ve recently driven by the farm of Anna and Eric Lancaster have noticed something out of the ordinary. Where tomatoes and peas usually grow, close to 300 pumpkins and gourds have sprung up over the past three months.
Growing pumpkins is a new experience for the Lancasters, who last year sold fresh vegetable soup, jams, jellies and pickles with produce grown on their farm.
This year, they took on the challenge of providing pumpkins for Pumpkinpalooza, downtown Starkville’s fall/Halloween celebration that begins at 6 p.m. tonight.
“When we decided to do it, we just wanted a fall crop, something different than turnip greens or having a second crop of tomatoes,” said Anna Lancaster. “We figured our kids, which are 6 and 10, would have fun watching the pumpkins grow.
“It’s turned a few heads, too,” Lancaster added. “We’ve had several people stop to look at what we had and even saw someone walking through it.”
Lancaster will sell the pumpkins for anywhere between $1 and $6, depending on the size. Considering this year’s harvest was a “trial run,” she’s pleased with the results. And despite having a farming background, growing pumpkins was a learning experience.
“There’s normal diseases pumpkins can get,” Lancaster said. “And just keeping them watered and spraying for squash bugs. And every once and a while, turtles will come and bust up your pumpkins.”
More than 5,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event, the second in Starkville Main Street’s “New South Weekend” lineup. Each of the four New South Weekend events falls on the day before a Mississippi State University home football game. The Bulldogs host South Carolina at 11:21 a.m. Saturday.
The event, held on Main Street, is free. Residents and visitors are encouraged to shop at Main Street stores and eat at downtown restaurants, which will stay open late.
Pumpkinpalooza debuted last year and drew 5,000 people. This year’s event was featured in Mississippi Magazine, the first Starkville festival to gain statewide exposure, Starkville Main Street Manager Jennifer Gregory said.
“I think it’s so popular because it’s a family friendly event with a Halloween theme,” Gregory said. “Most kids are going to wear their Halloween costumes, and parents are going to buy pumpkins. We realized there was a void for this type of an event two years ago.”
Pumpkinpalooza will start with a Mississippi State pep rally featuring mascot Bully and the MSU cheerleaders in front of the pumpkin patch. Main Street merchants will host trick or treating, and retailers will feature MSU Fashion Board models dressed in Halloween makeup and hair.
The Starkville Area Arts Council will have a free pumpkin painting station, and Dandy Doodlez will hold a face painting booth. Starkville Community Market vendors will sell baked goods and tailgating items.
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