Then two-year-old Mia Buser, of Palmerston, at the 2012 Collector Village Pumpkin Festival. Picture: Melissa Adams.

Then two-year-old Mia Buser, of Palmerston, at the 2012 Collector Village Pumpkin Festival. Picture: Melissa Adams.

'It just grew bigger and bigger': How the much-loved pumpkin festival came to a close

Vale the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival, we will miss you

Community Development
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Like a Queensland Blue watered all summer, the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival just grew and grew.

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It was the quintessential celebration of autumn and country life; a day when the sun was (usually) shining, but there was still a chill in the air.

And, like a good pumpkin soup, it had that indefinable something; that secret ingredient that set it apart and made it memorable.

From humble beginnings in 2003, the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival, just north of the national capital, grew to become a massive event that attracted thousands of people to the little village on the first Sunday of May.

As many as 18,000 people would turn up for the one-day event, creating a huge logistical challenge for a village that boasts about 300 residents.

Aliesha Lavers with Pumpkin Joe at the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival in 2019. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Aliesha Lavers with Pumpkin Joe at the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival in 2019. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

So, this week's announcement that the Collector Village Pumpkin Festival would be put on hold indefinitely, due to the difficulties of running big events in the era of COVID-19 and because of how huge it had become, was met with regret by many Canberrans.

The festival was a day of innocent fun - scarecrow-making, wheelbarrow racing, pumpkin growing competitions. And all accompanied by a cup of hot pumpkin soup or a steaming pumpkin scone.

Michael Baylis in the wheelbarrow racing at the 2017 Collector Village Pumpkin Festival. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Michael Baylis in the wheelbarrow racing at the 2017 Collector Village Pumpkin Festival. Photo: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Festival coordinator Gary Poile said that with the event cancelled this year due to COVID-19 and unlikely to return until 2022 at the earliest, the organising committee decided now was the time to retire.

The scarecrow-making competition was always fun. Picture: Tim the Yowie Man

The scarecrow-making competition was always fun. Picture: Tim the Yowie Man

The festival is run by a committee of the Upper Lachlan Shire Council which will consider its future at a meeting next week. But general manager Colleen Worthy said on Wednesday the festival was unlikely to continue and the meeting would be more about thanking all those who had made it such a success.

Mr Poile said restrictions on crowd numbers due to COVID-19 had sounded the death knell for the festival but it had also become harder to put on the festival each year.

Major considerations over the years included how to get traffic safely on and off the Federal Highway and then find parking for thousands of cars as well as catering to the needs of 150 stall holders.

Like a Queensland blue watered all summer, the festival grew and grew.

"It would be lovely if you could run a small pumpkin festival but you just couldn't do it. It just grew bigger and bigger," Mr Poile said.

The festival galvanised community spirit in Collector and meant about $20,000 could be distributed each year for community projects for groups such as the local school, church and local history organisation.

Ted Berkitt, Gary Poile (centre) and Tony Jones ahead of the 2019 festival. Picture: Karleen Minney

Ted Berkitt, Gary Poile (centre) and Tony Jones ahead of the 2019 festival. Picture: Karleen Minney

"I'm sure had it not been for COVID, we would have pushed on but taking two consecutive years out of it and the closest we're going to get to running it is 2022, that's a long way off to keep a committee going and everything bottling along," he said.

The festival had branded Collector as a "can-do community".

"We are a group that likes doing things and coming together and running events. That's the kind of community we are," Mr Poile said.

He was sure the community would want to continue with another event of some kind, just smaller.

"One door closes, I'm sure another one will open. We'll see what happens," he said.

The story 'It just grew bigger and bigger': How the much-loved pumpkin festival came to a close first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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