Valle Crucis Punkin Festival Oct. 24
One of autumn's newest traditions continues Saturday with
fourth annual Valle Crucis Punkin Festival.
With a day's cornucopia of family fun, ranging from pumpkin carving to a new twist on apple bobbing, the festival begs only one question: Why "punkin?"
"Because it's more fun than 'pumpkin,'" said event organizer and Mast General Store public relations director Sheri Moretz. "'Pumpkin' is so staged, almost stoic, and we want to have a good time."
Held at the Mast Store Annex from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., this good time includes, of course, "punkin" carving, allowing kids to test their mettle on a prepared pumpkin.
"We gut 'em, you carve 'em - all the messy work's already done," Moretz said, adding that everyone wins a prize.
"We came up with a great system two years ago, when we discovered that a Shop Vac is an invaluable tool for the success of our festival," organizer Tracey Thompson of Mast General Store said in a press release.
"And this year, we're carving for a cause," Moretz added.
The festival was organized as a kid-friendly event in the truest sense, as it benefits area nonprofit organization Western Youth Network (WYN), which offers after-school and mentoring programs for at-risk youth. Punkins cost $10 apiece, $15 for two and $20 for three, while game tickets are three for $1, with all proceeds benefiting WYN.
WYN executive director Jennifer Grubb said the festival could not come at a better time, as the organization's shouldering a cut in grant funding from the state. Proceeds will fuel transportation costs for kids enrolled in the after-school program, while also paying staff members in the mentoring program.
"I think it's a wonderful fall festival - a perfect place and activity, one of those old-time festivals you don't see much anymore," Grubb said.
This old-time festival includes old-time games for all ages, some that Moretz said parents would even enjoy revisiting. There's Hoop-La, in which contestants must successfully toss a ring from a string onto a hook. Sound simple? "It's quite addictive, and frustrating sometimes," Moretz said.
And then there's the Punkin Sack Races, held like a traditional potato sack race.
"And that's actually quite fun, particularly when the parents race their children," Moretz said. "You forget how hard it is to put your legs in a sack and hop to a place. There's a lot of laughing involved."
In the Punkin Festival Apple Bob, the mess factor may have been lowered, but the challenge has been heightened. Though the soaking tub of buoyant apples is gone, contestants must still use their heads as they attempt to grasp apples dangling from strings. Laughter's also included, Moretz added.
Punkin Bowling is also a hit, with contestants lobbing pumpkins toward a set of pins, and no shoe rental necessary. There's also the Punkin Ring Toss, and the ever-popular Tin-Can Alley, in which young sharpshooters train a small potato gun on an array of tin cans.
The fishing booth requires no license, but rather three tickets, as contestants cast a line into a veritable sea of prizes.
Carvers can also judge an inter-store pumpkin-carving contest between Mast's various locations - the original Valle Crucis store and annex, as well as locations in Boone, Blowing Rock, Waynesville, Asheville, Greenville, S.C., and Knoxville, Tenn. Judges simply place pocket change before their pick, and come closing time, the richest punkin wins (as does WYN).
Other entertainment includes face painting and live music by area bluegrass band Creekside Grass. And when pumpkin carving works up participants' appetites, Moretz promised plenty of food vendors to keep stomach growling down to an acceptable minimum.
Moretz said the Punkin Festival would not be possible without the help of volunteers, including those from WYN and Appalachian State University, though volunteer positions are still open for those hoping to lend a hand. To volunteer, contact Mast General Store's Tracey Thompson at (828) 963-6511 or WYN's Nicole Hiegl at (828) 264-5174.
"The Punkin Festival is an event that brings together our kids, our young volunteers and our parents in a fun atmosphere," Grubb said in the release. "We get to have fun and share it with visitors from all over the region."
The fun begins Saturday, Oct. 24, with the festival running from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the field beside the Mast Store Annex, located on N.C. 194 in Valle Crucis. Admission is free.
For more information, call Mast General Store at (828) 963-6511.