By Nanisa Osborn
The Circleville Pumpkin Show began in 1903 as a way to get the farmers to come to town and share their products with the city folk. It grew from a 30-foot display the first year to the nine city blocks which comprise the Show today. While the Circleville Pumpkin Show has changed over the years, at heart it still is dedicated to the agricultural pursuits that make the community strong.
In 1912 The Pumpkin Show and the United States looked much different than they do today. The nation was in the midst of a Presidential Election. It was a rare 4-way contest between Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Eugene V. Debs, and William Howard Taft. The candidates traveled the nation by train to campaign. New Mexico became the 47th State in the Union. A gift from the Japanese Ambassador, the first Cherry Blossom tree was planted in Washington, DC. The first Balkan War began and Woodrow Wilson was ultimately elected President.
The 9th Pumpkin Show in 1912 was a three-day event. It included a display of farm products in front of the Court House; a school exhibit in the rotunda of the Court House; a fancy work sewing exhibit in the Commissioner’s Room; and poultry, hogs, and sheep displayed on West Main Street.
Tables lined both sides of Court and Main streets with displays of fruits, vegetables, grain, bread, butter, cakes, candy and canned goods. A manufacturer’s exhibit included displays of goods made in the industries of Circleville. A horse show took place on Thursday evening.
Amusement rides were two merry-go-rounds, a Ferris wheel, a double wheel and the Eagle Swing. Entertainment included a double trapeze act, performing ponies and performing dogs. A display of farm products by Earl A. Flaningan consisted of farm and forest products including 132 specimens of wood from trees grown in Ohio.
On Saturday, the Pumpkin Show had 20,000 visitors, the largest ever seen in Circleville. The town merchants provided the $1,500 prize money for all of the contests and displays, and they estimated that visitors to the show spent $50,000 in various stores.
By 1962 the nation and the Pumpkin Show had a new look. Jack Nicklaus at the age of 21 made his first pro appearance. President Kennedy barred all trade with Cuba, the Beach Boys introduced a new musical style with their hit “Surfin” and the first baseball game was played at Dodger Stadium. The Beverly Hillbillie’s premiered on television and the Naval Blockade of Cuba was ordered beginning what became known as the Cuban missile crisis.
In Circleville, pork chops were 49 cents a pound, 5 pounds of sugar was 55 cents and JC Penny had a sale on pillow cases for 75 cents a pair. The 56th Pumpkin Show opened on October 17 and was a 4-day show. The Fire Chief asked residents of Circleville to rake their leaves and pick up trash each day to keep the community looking clean for visitors. Parades started at 2 pm and 8 pm.
The US Army Field Band appeared at their 4th Pumpkin Show and performed in concert each night. The Ashville Kiwanis Club sponsored Chief Split Cloud, his wife Little Fawn, and daughter Bright Eyes with a marksman show using hand guns, bow and arrow, and a bull whip. The Historical Society sponsored an exhibit of Tombstone Rubbings from Circleville and surrounding areas which was the work of Mrs. Robert Hutzelman.
The winning Giant Pumpkin of 201 pounds was submitted by George Coon. Governor Mike DeSalle joined a parade and assisted with judging the Jitterbug contest. The Show closed on Saturday with an estimated attendance of 120,000.
The 2021 Circleville Pumpkin Show will take place Wednesday, October 20 through Saturday, October 23. Admission is free and it is one of Ohio’s oldest and largest festivals. There are parades daily, each with their own theme. We still have exhibits of pumpkins and squash, fruits and vegetables, canned goods, baked goods, home arts and crafts, a flower show, and a Fine Art Show. There are several stages with entertainment daily.
The Circleville Growers will bring their winning pumpkins for the traditional weigh-in at 9:15 am on Wednesday. Rumors among the growers indicate there are many pumpkins over 1,000 pounds, but no one will say if they think they have a world record or a Pumpkin Show record pumpkin. The current record is held by Dr. and Mrs. Bob Liggett at 1,964 pounds.
This year we are pleased to have our amusement rides presented by Poor Jack Amusements, with something for “kids” of all ages. There will be about 200 vendors at the Pumpkin Show with pumpkin-themed products and foods, as well as other types of foods and retail products. Just a few of the pumpkin-related favorites include pumpkin pie, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin pizza, pumpkin tacos, pumpkin chili, pumpkin elephant ears, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin and root beer floats, pumpkin cream puffs, pumpkin fudge and many, many other pumpkin delicacies.
This event attracts over 400,000 visitors each year to this small central Ohio community located just south of Columbus along US Route 23. Visitors come from all 50 states and many foreign venues to enjoy the Circleville Pumpkin Show.
As festivals and fairs reopen across Ohio this summer the State has issued health orders that mandate specific public health and safety measures for festival and fairs. While festivals are no longer required to operate under mandatory mask and social distancing guidelines, each festival has been asked to implement their own safety measures for a safe environment. The Circleville Pumpkin Show is working to create the safest environment for the festival staff, volunteers, vendors, entertainers, and the visitors who come to enjoy the Show. Details will be available on our website in October.
So, we invite you to mark your calendar for October 20-23 and join us for “The Greatest Free Show on Earth,” the Circleville Pumpkin Show! For more information, visit our website www.pumpkinshow.com or call 740-474-7000.
The Circleville Pumpkin Show Then and Now