Picture Ohio! – Circleville Pumpkin Show

Pumpkins, Circleville
Pumpkins, Circleville Pumpkin Show

Do you like pumpkin pie? Is orange your favorite color? If you answered “Yes” to either of these questions, and you live within driving distance of central Ohio, you will enjoy a visit to the annual Pumpkin Show in Circleville, about 30 miles south of Columbus, Ohio. Billed as one of the largest festivals in the country, the 4-day Circleville Pumpkin Show has been held annually since 1903, and attracts more than 400,000 visitors. This year the show took place on October 16-19, and I visited Circleville to check out the photographic opportunities last Friday morning with my Columbus-based friend Paula Harper, who enjoys tagging along on some of my Ohio photo trips.

Pony Rides, Circleville Pumpkin Festival
Pony Rides, Circleville Pumpkin Show

Although I often prefer cloudy weather for nature and garden photography, early or late on a sunny day is usually my favorite time for photographing in cities and towns, and the orange hue of pumpkins looks great against a blue sky. It was a clear blue sky when we arrived in Circleville around 9:00 am. Many local businesses and homeowners provide parking for $5-10, but we found a free parking place a few blocks south of the junction of Court Street and Main Street, which is where the main pumpkin display is set up. Court Street runs north-south, and most of the displays and other attractions at the Pumpkin Show are lined up along the west and east sides of Court Street, for several blocks north and south of the Main Street intersection.

Mural, Circleville
Pumpkin Mural, Circleville

A large mural, painted by muralist Eric Henn on the west side of a building on Main Street, just east of Court Street, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Circleville Pumpkin Show, which took place in 2006 (You would think that it would have been in 2003, but the show was not held for one year during World War I and for two years during World War II, so the centennial actually arrived in 2006). The beautiful mural depicts the early days of the show, when horses pulled wagons loaded with pumpkins.

Pumpkin Winners, Circleville Pumpkin Festival
Pumpkin Winners, Circleville Pumpkin Show

One of the main events at the show is the weighing of the pumpkins. This year the heaviest pumpkin, grown by Cecil and Teresa Westin, weighed 1,312 pounds. The heaviest pumpkin ever at the event was grown by Bob and Jo Liggett, and tipped the scales at 1,636 pounds. Lindsey’s Bakery in Circleville baked a 100th anniversary pumpkin pie that measured 14 feet in diameter. The ingredients included 795 pounds of pumpkin, 360 pounds of sugar, 400 pounds of flour, 60 dozen eggs, 60 pounds of powdered milk, and 75 gallons of water. The pie was mixed by 15 people and took ten hours to bake. At the end of the show, Lindsey’s giant dessert is donated to local hogs, who pig out with squeals of delight on pumpkin pie for hours.

Pumpkin Pyramid, Circleville Pumpkin Festival
Pumpkin Pyramid, Circleville Pumpkin Show

The show set up is completed on Tuesday evening, and the show opens each day at 10:00 am. If you want to beat the crowds, and take photographs of the displays without being jostled by tens of thousands of visitors lining Court Street, plan to arrive at 8:30 – 9:00 am.

Pumpkins and Gourds, Circleville Pumpkin Festival
Pumpkins and Gourds, Circleville Pumpkin Show

The word “pumpkin” comes from the Greek word pepon, which is Greek for “large melon.” The French modified the Greek word to pompon, which the British changed again to pumion and early American colonists further revised to today’s word, “pumpkin.” All pumpkins are the ripe fruit of species of winter squash in the genus Cucurbita.  The number of different kinds of pumpkins and gourds on display at the Circleville Pumpkin Show is amazing, and if you enjoy photographing arrangements you will be in your element here, with more than 100,000 pounds of pumpkins on view. Even the manhole covers in downtown Circleville are painted orange and feature a pumpkin.

Vendor Displays, Circleville Pumpkin Festival
Vendor Displays, Circleville Pumpkin Show
Fool the Guesser
Fool the Guesser

There are rides for the kids, competitions of all kinds, and just about any kind of food that can be made with pumpkin is available, including  pumpkin pies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin burgers, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin cake, pumpkin soups, pumpkin waffles, pumpkin cream puffs, pumpkin fudge, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin milkshakes, and many other confections that can be made with pumpkin. We settled for a slice of pumpkin pie with a dab of whipped cream. An estimated 23,000 pumpkin pies and 100,000 pumpkin donuts are sold during the 4-day show.

Little Miss Pumpkin Photo Shoot
Little Miss Pumpkin Photo Shoot

The VIPs at the Circleville Pumpkin Show wear orange jackets and an orange hat. In the photo above, the winner of the Little Miss Pumpkin contest poses for photographs next to the giant pumpkin display. Many parades take place during the afternoons and evenings of the 4-day event.

Buildings along Court Street, Circleville
Courthouse, Town Hall and Masonic Lodge on Court Street, Circleville
Pickaway County Courthouse and Ferris Wheel
Pickaway County Courthouse and Ferris Wheel

To visit another piece of pumpkin memorabilia in Circleville, drive south on Court Street from the center of town for about 0.8 miles to Logan Street. Turn left on Logan Street and head east about 0.4 miles to reach the pumpkin water tower on the north side of Town Street. If you want to include the stem of the pumpkin in your photo you’ll need to drive further east to bring the top of the tower into view.

Pumpkin Water Tower, Circleville
Pumpkin Water Tower, Circleville
Crites Octagon House and Water Tower, Circleville
Gregg-Crites Octagon House and Water Tower, Circleville

A few hundred feet south of the water tower, on its own in a field, stands a relic of the early days of Circleville, the Gregg-Crites Octagon House. When Circleville was originally platted in 1810, the town center was laid out in a circle with an octagonal court house in the middle and eight  streets radiating out from it like the spokes of a wheel. The circular design proved to be uneconomic, and by 1856 the town center had been changed to a square, with a grid of roads. When the octagon house shown above was built by George Gregg around 1855, it was modeled after the original Circleville courthouse. The house was acquired by the H. H. Crites family, and became the centerpiece of a thriving farm. By the end of the 20th century, however, like many thousands of other Ohio farms, the farm had been virtually abandoned and was acquired by a developer in the early 2000s as part of a site for a Walmart Supercenter near Rte. 23. Walmart wanted to raze the old house, but a local group of preservationists known as the Roundtown Conservancy prevailed and the 480-ton house was eventually reinforced, jacked up and moved  by Dingey Movers, at a cost of more than $100,000, for several hundred feet to its current, lonely location. Restoration of the old house has begun and it is hoped that the building will become a museum.

Paula had a social commitment back in Columbus on Friday evening, and as we drove north along Rte. 23 from Circleville around 11:30 am the line of vehicles bringing visitors to the Pumpkin Show stretched for more than a mile along the highway. If photography is your goal, visit the show early on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday before the town fills up with 100,000 visitors. Next year, in 2014, the Circleville Pumpkin Show is scheduled for October 15-18.

The old Gregg-Crites Octagon House has seen better times, but its influence endures to this day in Circleville, where another, more diminutive round object with smoother contours, an edible interior and a bright orange skin has become the centerpiece of the town’s fortunes. You might say that farming in Circleville has come full circle.

For more information on the Circleville Pumpkin Show, visit the show’s website HERE

To learn more about the Gregg-Crites Octagon House, visit the Roundtown Conservancy’s website HERE







This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I love this festival, thank you for sharing Ian!

    Your previous student, lol!


  2. I can not believe Walmarts wanted to tear down the house! That is sad. I am glad they moved it so that it can be seen by everyone enjoying such historical houses. Walmarts could have at least offered to move it.

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