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Joshua Cowell principal finds $100 pumpkin at Manteca High
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Bonnie Bennett hugs the pumpkin she and her husband Paul found before dawn Sunday morning in front of Manteca High School. Bulletin Publisher David Winegarden congratulated her and presented her with a check for $100 in the newspapers contest. - photo by GLENN KAHL

Joshua Cowell Elementary School Principal Bonnie Bennett is taking “The Great Pumpkin Hunt” a step further after she and her husband Paul followed the clues in the Manteca Bulletin and discovered the first hidden gourd in front of Manteca High School Sunday morning and claimed the $100 prize.

Bennett held a similar event at her school the next day on Monday where two pumpkins were hidden on campus – one for children and the other for teachers.  There were clues for each group to follow in their search at the beginning of the school day. 

Fifth grader Austin Kivilahti raced to find the pumpkin within 20 seconds after hearing the announcement – going straight to it.  Fifth grade teacher Mark Castro and attendance clerk Darcie Boulter searched throughout the day along with their peers finding the second pumpkin after school day ended.

In the couple’s search for the prize pumpkin in the predawn hours Sunday, they first went to the Lutheran Church on Northgate Drive hunting the grounds with flashlights.  Bennett said people came out of the church asking if they needed any help and they quickly explained what they were doing on church property before heading toward the Manteca High campus.

They had waited patiently for their paper to be delivered to see the clues as to where the pumpkin might have been hidden.  They made the trip from home to the Lutheran Church and on to Manteca High finding the pumpkin by 6:15 a.m.  The paper had arrived at 5:45 a.m. taking them only 30 minutes in their search.

The principal said she had announced the pumpkin hunt at the kindergarten through eighth grade school when all were gathered at the first bell in the playground.  The clues for the children was to “follow the track, but you will have to get off the road” where they followed the cougar footprints painted on the walk way.

The chief clue for the staff members was, “I love to read, but I’m hungry too.”  This led them to the ball shack where they discovered their golden pumpkin.  The students’ pumpkin was in purple.

Bennett said the winners  Halloween cup with candy, a special sucker, and bubbles with the staff members having an added Halloween cookie cutter.  She said she hoped they would put it to use to provide cookies for their children at school and at home.

The $100 pumpkin was found behind the “Manteca High School” brick sign in front of the Speech Arts Auditorium. 

A breakdown of the three clues is as follows:

• For whom the bell tolls: That is a reference to the beloved Manteca High bell tower that once stood within yards of where the pumpkin was hidden.

• Winter is fast approaching: It was a reference to Manteca High’s Dr. Robert Winter Gym although some got to the Manteca High campus by assuming it meant former Manteca High principal Steve Winter who is the late doctor’s son.

• You can make book here: That was a reference to the nearby Manteca High Library as well as Manteca High’s new vice principal Troy Fast.

Several people believed the clues led to Sierra High due to the campus being on Winters Drive, the fact there are school bells, and the school library that backs up to Winters Drive.

The contest continues in this Sunday’s Manteca Bulletin.