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30 YEARS OF FUN
Annual Pumpkin Fair takes off in Downtown Manteca this weekend
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Pumpkin Fair attendees jammed Yosemite Avenue last year. - photo by Bulletin file photo

FAST FACTS

• WHAT: 30th annual Sunrise Kiwanis Manteca Pumpkin Fair

• WHERE: Downtown Manteca

• WHEN: Saturday (Oct. 4) and Sunday (Oct. 5) from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• ADMISSION: Free

The frost isn’t on the pumpkin yet and the day time highs are still hitting the upper 90s.

It’s a typical first weekend in October for weather meaning it’s time to roll out the fruit that made Manteca famous — pumpkins.

The 30th annual Sunrise Kiwanis Manteca Pumpkin Fair opens Saturday at 10 a.m. in downtown and goes to 6 p.m. It’s the same hours for Sunday. 

The carnival hours are today and Friday (Oct. 2-3) from 4 to 10 p.m. as well as Saturday and Sunday (Oct. 4-5) from noon to 10 p.m. at The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley between JC Penney and the old Best Buy at the Highway 120 Bypass and Union Road.

More than 150 vendors will be selling everything from toe rings to Lockeford Sausage during the two-day downtown event.

The free Kids Zone sponsored by Redi-Mark and Pumpkin Events sponsored by the Manteca Pumpkin Growers under the stately sycamore trees at Library Park are open both days from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. You can watch kids search for the perfect pumpkin, try their luck at rolling one of the orange fruits, see how far they can spit a pumpkin seed and find out just how much fun it is to go wild and try to win a pumpkin pie eating contest.

There are also kids’ activities on Manteca Avenues sponsored by the Academy of Arts & Science.

And if you’d like to enjoy some wholesome entertainment presented by your neighbors and kids, stop by the community stage. You’ll find it in Library Park sponsored by PG&E.

It features everything from belly dancers and the Sierra High jazz band, singers, dancers, and local “garage” bands to police canine demonstrations.

 Just across the way at the Main Stage at Manteca and Sycamore avenues is the featured entertainment. 

You can enjoy the bands as will from the nearby beer garden in shady Wilson Park that’s located directly behind the Post Office.

There’s a car show as well on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. In the 100 and 200 blocks of East Yosemite Avenue that’s sponsored by Phil Waterford’s Manteca Ford.

Nearby you can enjoy the police motorcycle skills competition both days.

The haunted house that debuted last year is also back by popular demand.

Arguably the best thing about the Pumpkin Fair is the people you’ll find there — your neighbors, your friends, or people you’ve never met before. 

Strolling along Yosemite Avenue, Maple Avenue, Manteca Avenue, and Sycamore Avenue to take in 150 plus vendors is a lot of fun given the perfect pumpkin weather that always manages to roll around for the first weekend in October.

The Pumpkin Fair debuted back in the 1970s as a small event for several hours within the confines of Library Park.

The fun activities back then were mainly pumpkin-related — pumpkin roll, pumpkin pitch, pumpkin-seed spitting contests and the like.

Manteca area pumpkin growers George Perry, John Azevedo, Dave Celli, and Albert Fonseca started the Manteca Pumpkin Fair rolling.

Then it mushroomed and mushroomed, and then the Jaycees took over. 

Then the “debate” that made it to the pages of “People” magazine and in the columns of the Wall Street Journal broke out between Manteca and Half Moon Bay.

That’s when both cities were involved in a friendly competition over who grew the biggest pumpkin to decide who should have the title of Pumpkin Capital of the World.

Each city challenged the other on both counts. The friendly quarrel soon attracted the attention of the national news media with Perry being interviewed and photographed by People Magazine. Later, the Wall Street Journal picked up the story.

As far as the title of Pumpkin Capital of the World, Perry well tell you Manteca unquestionably is the one truly deserving of the title.

Half Moon Bay used to raise a lot of pumpkins “but never nothing like Manteca,” Perry once noted.

The friendly challenge was all that the Manteca Pumpkin Fair needed to really take off and get national attention.