CSD

Leonardo Urena and his 1, 938-pound pumpkin won last year’s giant pumpkin weigh-off contest at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival.

Elk Grove’s annual autumn festival will be less gigantic this year.

The Cosumnes Community Services District (CSD) board on July 1 accepted their parks staff’s recommendation to downsize the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival, due to challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 festival will now only be held on Saturday, Oct. 3 at Elk Grove Regional Park, and its sole attraction will be the weigh-off contests for giant pumpkins and other produce. Organizers plan to show the competition live on social media and they are also considering a “drive-thru viewing” of the giant fruits and vegetables.

The Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival typically attracts tens of thousands of visitors as well as giant pumpkin growers from across the country to Elk Grove Regional Park during the first weekend of October.

Attractions such as the giant pumpkin regatta, the scarecrow contest, and live music have been crowd pleasers. More than 70,000 people attended last year’s festival, according to a CSD staff report. The 2019 pumpkin contest winner, Leonardo Urena of Napa grew a 1,938-pound pumpkin.

Sacramento County public health officials currently forbid large, public gatherings in order to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“There is no indication that large-scale events will be permitted in the fall,” said Mike Dopson, the CSD’s parks and recreation director, during his July 1 presentation to the CSD board.

He also said that his staff expected to secure fewer vendors, sponsors, and entertainers this year. The CSD parks staff also won’t have enough part-time employees available to produce the festival and many of the full-time staff members were reassigned to childcare services, Dopson added.

He concluded that the district could generate an estimated $20,000 by offering the regional park for normal rental services during the first weekend of October.

CSD Director Rod Brewer approved the staff recommendation to scale back the festival.

“We may not have someone come out from Wisconsin, or we may, you’ll never know and that’s the fun of it and that’s the beauty of this weigh-off,” he said.

Brian Myers, the longtime emcee of the giant pumpkin contest as well as the chair of the California Growers Club, thanked the CSD staff for keeping this year’s weigh-off contest.

“It does wonders for the pumpkin world to advertise our pumpkins for all of the crowds,” he said.

Myers noted the importance of growers having the certified weight of their pumpkins recorded for this year’s competitions. He said there are still plans to offer prize money to the winner of this year’s Elk Grove contest.

“We’ll be back next year, we won’t let a little pandemic stop all of this,” Myers joked to the CSD board.