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Pumpkin fun in Manteca this weekend
pump fair bowl
Pumpkin bowling is among the free games offered at the Pumpkin Fair’s kid zone.

The 36th annual Sunrise Kiwanis Manteca Pumpkin Fair rolling into downtown Saturday and Sunday is more than just a street fair.

The event — launched nearly a half century ago by area growers to bring attention to the local crop that accounts for more than 80 percent of all commercially grown pumpkins in California — has raised more than $1 million to assist Manteca area non-profits since the Sunrise Kiwanis took over.

The non-profits benefiting run the gamut from youth organizations and efforts to assist seniors to community groups such as the Manteca Historical Society.

Each year organizers select three non-profits to benefit. This year three local non-profits have been selected to each receive of the net proceeds. The three organizations and their mission statements are:

*AGAPE VILLAGES FOSTER FAMILY AGENCY: Agape Villages mobilizes community resources to provide quality homes, innovative solutions and the highest of professional services to disadvantaged children and their families to meet their needs, maximize their potential, and lead them toward a better and brighter future.

*THE FRIENDS OF MANTECA FUTURE FARMERS OF AMERICA: Our Alumni Group is dedicated to support Manteca High School students in agricultural education and FFA, with resources they need to maximize opportunities within the organization that will in turn help them develop into leaders in their schools and communities.

*JOHN CAMBRA AGRICULTURE/MECHANICS SCHOLARSHIP FUND: Created in 2009, we provide financial support to graduating seniors, college, and trade school students pursuing careers in the fields of agriculture and/or mechanics.

The free event takes place Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There is a tractor show on Saturday and a car show on Sunday.

The popular Kids Zone takes place at Library Park featuring free activities such as pumpkin pie eating contest, pumpkin rolling, and pumpkin seed spitting among other endeavors.

There will be upwards of 200 vendors other food, crafts, clothing, and other items.

The Pumpkin Fair has two free entertainment venues — the Community Stage and the Main Stage.

The Main Stage along with the beer garden is at Wilson Park behind the Post Office. That is where the free Pumpkin Fair after Dark takes place Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m.

This year’s feature movie being shown on a 120-inch screen is the horror comedy classic “Beetlejuice.”

The snack bar and beer sales will be open until 8 p.m.

The Manteca Area Pumpkin Growers’ initial event was in response to Half Moon Bay staging a pumpkin festival and proclaiming they were the pumpkin capital of the world.

Given the tonnage of pumpkins shipped out of Manteca each year — in 2020 there was 75,100 tons with a wholesale value of $31.88 million — the assertion was a tad absurd.

The first event the growers simply took bales of hay to Library Park, stacked pumpkins in then and arranged for the late Pat O’Leary to secure entertainment that ended up consisting of a belly dancer. The entire effort covered only a few hours.

The event started growing with the non-defunct Manteca Jaycees taking over.

The Sunrise Kiwanis took it to the next level after the Jaycees disbanded.

They took the paid model the Jaycees employed one step further and secured national music acts. That required bigger venues and locations that could be better secured. They also snagged several up and coming musical acts that, by the time they played the Pumpkin Fair, were at the top of their respective musical charts such as country singer Ty Herdon. The venues included the Oakwood Amphitheater where the gated Oakwood Shores gated community is today, the former Manteca Rodeo Grounds where Bass Pro Shops is now, and the Manteca Industrial Park among other locales.

The service club decided 20 years ago to return the Pumpkin Fair it its roots, eschewed big name entertainment, dropped the admission fee, and set up shop in downtown the first weekend in October.

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To contact Dennis Wyatt, email