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Strilchuk celebrates 35 years of Pumpkin Fest

CARSTAIRS - This year's recent Carstairs Pumpkin Fest marked the 35th consecutive year of the popular event. One of the main organizers, Anne Strilchuk, has been on the committee every year starting with the first one back in 1985.
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CARSTAIRS - This year's recent Carstairs Pumpkin Fest marked the 35th consecutive year of the popular event. One of the main organizers, Anne Strilchuk, has been on the committee every year starting with the first one back in 1985.

The original idea for Pumpkin Fest came from a local reporter, Anne Marie Van Male, who wanted to put Carstairs on the map.

"There were a group of us and she said, 'Why not pumpkins?'" said Strilchuk. "It's a lovely little harvest thing. The first year we had a 326-pound pumpkin. That was from Calgary and it was wonderful. We also had the Pioneer Supper and Grant MacEwan came. That was so neat to have him here."

The original Pumpkin Fest committee consisted of Gail McDonnell, Lois Casebeer, Rosa Garrill and Strilchuk.

Strilchuk said there has been a few times when it looked like there would be nobody to take over the festival but someone always steps up.

"We've had such creative pumpkins over the years like we had Cinderella's pumpkin coach," she said. "This year we had four businesses that put scarecrows in. Mountain View Credit Union put in a huge scarecrow and it was a robber with money coming out of everywhere. Crossfit had one working out that was cute."

Strilchuk said the first year of Pumpkin Fest in 1985 was very popular with people coming from all over Central Alberta.

"The first year was huge," she said. "There was lots of baking. It was packed. People had the time I guess. Over the years it's dwindled down. I'm not sure. We've had changes. We used to have local talent. Teenagers put on air band. We had clog dancers."

Another big thrill, Strilchuk said, was having Grant MacEwan, the former lieutenant-governor of Alberta, come out to one of the first Pumpkin Fests at the cost of, "one slice of pumpkin pie."

An article in the Carstairs News from Oct. 8, 1986 stated that, "Carstairs Pumpkin Days will definitely be a go next year. The turn out was great with visitors from as far away as Vancouver, Arizona and Australia. Winning all-around, first and second place was Klive Schaupmeyers, his pumpkins weighing in at 310 lbs. and 302 lbs."

The article goes on to mention the Carstairs Kitchen Band played for about an hour at the curling rink, and there were also baking and craft tables, a lip sync competition and a mini-carnival. There was also a visit from the Purple Witch, who put on a magic show. The day ended with the Pioneer Supper at the community hall.

"The 125 tickets available went extremely fast and the historical society hopes to make the dinner an annual event," the article read. "Grant MacEwan was the special guest at the supper and spoke to a captivated audience for about a half hour. It was a great day and people are already looking forward to the next Great Pumpkin Day Contest."

Strilchuk said what the Pumpkin Fest committee really needs now is some new faces to step up.

"We need new blood," she said. "Someone with lots of energy who can really help. We need new ideas. We've had a few times when it was going to be our last year but someone always comes forward. Hopefully someone will come forward next year and really want to take it over."