Pumpkin Festival is this Saturday

This weekend is one of Main Street Square’s biggest festival.

The Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival is set for Saturday, Sept. 27, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Main Street Square, Memorial Park, and on Sixth Street between Main and Omaha streets.

The Pumpkin Festival started as a Rapid City Downtown Association event six years ago, and was held on Seventh Street between St. Joseph and Quincy streets, right next to the Dahl Arts Center. The first couple of years, the festival was held in conjunction with the Dahl Arts Center’s Americana Music Festival.

Three years ago, the festival made the move to Main Street Square, with the Pumpkin Chuckin’ at Memorial Park. That is where the festival lives today, and brings in 15,000 to 20,000 people each year.

This year, Main Street Square was asked to organize the event, with the Rapid City Downtown Association as the event sponsor. Main Street Square staff is more experienced with high volume events and event planning, so the collaboration works well.

Our favorite activity is the Pumpkin Chuckin’ or Pumpkin Catapult at 10 a.m., sponsored by RESPEC. South Dakota School of Mines students from the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Production build catapults to fit the pumpkins exactly. We spent Monday morning with one of the teams, and they said that they were flinging the gourds about 250 feet with 200 pounds of force. There are about seven teams competing this year, with a special demonstration by students from Central High School.

Another activity that brings in the crowds is the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off at 11 a.m., sponsored by First National Bank and Pennington Title. Main Street Square is a certified weigh-off site for the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the official national organization that records weights for pumpkins, gourds, squash, tomatoes and watermelon. Last year’s winner weighed 955.8 pounds, exactly one pound more than the second place winner. The pumpkins arrive on trailers and in the back of pick-ups, and are lifted onto pallets by a forklift. Then they are weighed on an official scale and inspected for cracks, holes and more.

The Pumpkin Festival is a great event for children. Along with purchasing pumpkins, children can check out the Rapid City Rush Foundation Kidz Zone that features a pumpkin patch, pony rides, face painting, pumpkin painting and more. JDProductions will lead family entertainment in the Square, beginning at 10 a.m.

The festival will begin at 9 a.m., with a drum demonstration by Stevens High School and Central High School, at Main Street Square, then the drum lines will lead event attendees down Sixth Street to Memorial Park to begin the catapult.

Watch chefs compete in the Downtown Chef’s Challenge at 2 p.m., sponsored by Someone’s in the Kitchen. Chefs from The Blind Lion Speakeasy, Enigma, Hotel Alex Johnson, Isis Hospitality, Murphy’s Pub & Grill, ¿Que Pasa? and the Wine Cellar Restaurant will bring a pumpkin dish that judges will taste. The judges will share their thoughts on each, and recipes will be shared online after the event.

Woody Earwood will provide musical entertainment on the Main Street Square Stage, sponsored by Hotel Alex Johnson, from 12:30 to 2 p.m., then again at 3 p.m. The Bud Light Beverage Garden will be open from noon to 6 p.m.

To wrap up the festival, a Downtown Pub Crawl will take place from 3 to 9 p.m. Participants may sample seasonal beer at Main Street Square, then visit 445 Lounge, Brass Rail, Firehouse Brewing Co., Firehouse Wine Cellars, Independent Ale House, Murphy’s Pub, Paddy O’Neill’s Pub, ¿Que Pasa?, Thirsty’s, Wobbly Bobby and VFW. A prize drawing will be at Murphy’s at 7 p.m. (Must be present to win.)

Throughout the Festival, stop by Arts Rapid City’s booth to check out the pumpkin carving contest and vote on your favorite. The deadline has passed to enter a carved pumpkin into the competition.

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” movie will show at the Elks Theatre at 9, 10, 11, noon, 1, 2, 3 and 4 p.m. for a $1 admission with proceeds benefitting the Ronald McDonald House.

The Rapid City Downtown Association has secured free parking in Downtown Rapid City on Saturday, Sept. 27, for convenience while shopping and attending the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival. Private parking lots do not apply.

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