Emma Polen | layout editor
Oct. 21, 2021
Last weekend, Oct. 16 and 17, Monster Pumpkin Fest returned to Pittsburgh at the 3 Crossings Campus between 28th and 29th street.
Free admission provided countless opportunities to be immersed in the pumpkin Halloween spirit, and for a few more dollars, visitors had the chance to try out some of Pumpkin Fest’s paid attractions.
Mist Lane Farms came with their white horses and pumpkin carriages for those who booked a ride in advance. It was no wonder the carriage rides were in such high demand: the experience was something right out of a Cinderella movie.
The festival booths featured a variety of local vendors selling everything from signature pumpkin beverages to fall-inspired pet treats. However, most of the pumpkin-themed items were sold out by Sunday.
The free attractions at Monster Pumpkin Fest started right at the gate…or should I say, the giant wall of pumpkin graffiti art. The theme of Pumpkin Fest was evidently medieval characters, as the walls depicted images of wizards, castles, knights and dragons.
According to the official Monster Pumpkin Fest website (monsterpumpkin.com), the pumpkin wall was made up of 1,200 pumpkins hand-tied to a wooden grid and spray painted by local graffiti artists David Scott Brozovich, Max ‘Gems’ Gonzales and Shane Pilster.
Another local business boasting their artwork was Vessel Studio Glass. Drew Hine told The Duke that he and his wife, Jeannine are the owners of Vessel, and look forward to Pumpkin Fest every year.
Hine blew glass pumpkins on the festival grounds. He was safely separated from his large audience with a metal barrier.
While Hine drew a substantial crowd during his demonstrations, he had to deal with the challenge of Pittsburgh weather. Unfortunately, Hine said, “You can’t blow glass in the rain.”
Nevertheless, Hine said he always loves coming to Monster Pumpkin Fest.
“It provides entertainment and gives us a chance to sell our wares,” he said.
Even with the gleaming glass pumpkins and the enormous pumpkin graffiti wall, it was impossible to miss Greg Butauski and his team’s giant carved pumpkin art.
Butauski is a professional pumpkin carver. For this year’s medieval theme, he carved out multiple designs into giant pumpkins including Rapunzel, a jester and a “mermacorn” (mermaid unicorn).
What constitutes a giant pumpkin is that it weighs over 1,000 pounds. With this in mind, it usually takes professional carvers like Butauski eight to ten hours to carve artwork onto a single giant pumpkin.
While this endeavor might seem time-consuming enough, there is also the task of scooping the seeds and fleshing out the pumpkin. For this step, Butauski said, “It’s not done by the artist.”
Usually, carving out the pumpkin is done by the giant pumpkin growers themselves, because the giant pumpkin seeds are prized for their genetics. One single seed from the biggest pumpkin at the fair can sell for $1,000.
The 2021 North American Pumpkin Champions were on display at the festival this weekend. The first-place winning pumpkin, grown by Andy Wolf in Little Valley, New York, was 2,365 pounds. The second-place winner weighed in at 2,134 pounds, and the third place champion weighed 2,100 pounds.
“North American Pumpkin Champion” was not the only title being awarded at Pumpkin Fest. On Sunday, the annual Pumpkin Pie Eating Plunge Contest was hosted.
The goal of the competition was to devour an entire pumpkin pie in one minute and thirty seconds. The person who finished their pie first or got closest to eating the whole pie was the winner.
There was only one rule to the contest: contestants were not allowed to use their hands to eat the pie.
Of the seven competitors, two were winners from previous years.
It began with the whipped cream opening ceremony in which every contestant’s pumpkin pie was topped with a generous amount of whipped cream.
After a man — dressed as David S. Pumpkin — started the contestants off, the countdown began.
All contestants immediately dug in, all except Tyler Dillon who first flipped his pie tin over with his teeth and dumped the entire pie right onto the table.
Dillon’s method must have worked, because at the 1:30 mark, he and the other returning champion had tied. In order to break the tie, David S. Pumpkin told the audience to cheer for their favorite competitor. Dillon received the loudest applause and was crowned winner of the 2021 Pie Eating Plunge.
Dillon’s prize was a $50 Amazon gift card, a free Vessel Glass hand-blown pumpkin and the greatest bragging rights ever.
After the competition, the ecstatic Dillon told The Duke that the reason he signed up for the Pie Eating Plunge was because he had already won before. “It was so much fun the first time, I just had to come back,” Dillon said.
The final big event of Sunday night was the Pumpkin Drop. Every year, a few pumpkins are selected to be dropped from a crane into a small kiddy pool 140 ft. below.
The minimum pumpkin weight for the drop is 1,000 pounds. According to the official Pumpkin Fest information tent, one of the pumpkins dropped this year was about 1,800 pounds. For the full Pumpkin Drop experience, check out last year’s footage on the Monster Pumpkin Fest website.
Monster Pumpkin Fest will be back next year, but until then, here are a few other fall festivals happening soon in Pittsburgh to keep you busy:
Punkin’ Chunkin’, Oct. 23 from 3-8 p.m., Hartwood Acres
Owl-O-Ween, Oct. 16 – 24, National Aviary
Halloween Hoopla, Oct. 24 from 12-5 p.m., Bakery Square
Halloween Happenings, Oct. 25 from 4-8 p.m., Phipps Conservatory