“Look at this one!”
Zachary Tedford, clad in a bright orange sweater with a jack-o’-lantern face on it, was bouncing with excitement Oct. 18. The five-year-old’s face was lit up with joy as he saw each carved gourd.
It was the Kentville boy’s third year attending the event, but the first time his mom, Sara Bigelow, had come along.
“He’s loving it – Zachary was looking forward to it all day,” she said. “All day he kept asking if it was time to go yet. I think it’s great.”
In half an hour, 900 people had already headed into Miner’s Marsh to take part in the annual Pumpkin Walk, organized each year by the tourism and hospitality students at NSCC Kingstec. And each year, it’s getting bigger and better than ever.
“There’s so much excitement, especially with the little kids,” said second-year tourism student Stephanie Legge of Kentville, who was accepting food donations for the food bank at the entrance of the trail system. By 7:30 p.m., an hour into the event, the line-up at the entrance stretched the length of the parking lot behind the Kentville court house.
“That’s what I love the most, how excited they are. Everyone’s saying the pumpkins are great, and there’s been an outpouring of food and donations. It’s over and above what I expected.”
One of the most impressive pumpkins was a gourd carved in the image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“People love this one – a lot of people are stopping,” said first-year NSCC tourism student Jonathan Harris, who was stationed near the pumpkins on the trail. “I think it’s the most popular, lots of people are stopping. We’re getting traffic jams right here – and I love it because I get to talk to everyone.”
There were 450 carved pumpkins lining the trail – an increase from the 350 carved last year, in large part thanks to the partnership with the Kentville business community.
“A lot of businesses took part this year,” said Legge. “Last year we had maybe 50 or 60, but this year there were 90. It makes me proud, as a Kentville resident, to see all the people who pull together to put this on. The kids are so excited.”
The rest of the pumpkins were carved by the NSCC students.
“It’s been a long three days,” added Mia Bode, another second-year student. “I think I carved 15 pumpkins, but the first-year students carved even more because we still have other classes we have to do. I love seeing the result – everyone’s excited. I’ve talked to people who have been here multiple years and they still come back every year.”
Kentville partners with the NSCC to help with the event, said Mayor Sandra Snow, who was all smiles Oct. 18.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “NSCC puts in all the horsepower; the Town of Kentville supports it – firefighters and police are here, helping with parking and traffic – but seeing a group come to the town with an idea like this, that just needs a little bit of support to get it off the ground, is just wonderful.”
Traffic was backed up to Burgher Hill, she said, and was coming into town from multiple directions as people flowed in to take in the event. That was good news for local businesses, Snow added.
“Many merchants stayed open tonight and it’s a boon for them,” she said. “I’m sure it was a good night for those who did stay open.”
The Pumpkin Walk was Nicole Robinson’s brainchild four years ago.
“I’m over the moon,” she said. “This was the best yet by far – the carvings were wonderful, and for the most part, people were super respectful about our request to keep dogs out of the walk. We’d had some complaints about that in past years.”
Robinson, who is with the faculty of tourism management, says just over 4,000 people attended the Oct. 18 event.
“That’s a little bit down compared to last year – we had close to 5,000 there – but I suspect the crowds were so big last year it turned some people away,” she said. “But we changed some things last year and while there was always a line, it was always moving.”
She was thrilled with the partnerships the school was able to forge with the town and business community to put on the event again, as well as the public participation, which saw two trucks filled with donations for the food bank. The cash donations, she said, hadn’t been counted as of Oct. 19.
And don’t worry, Pumpkin Walk fans – there will be a fifth edition.
“Absolutely – we have no intentions of stopping until we’re told to do so,” she added.