Young, young at heart loved pumpkin festival...
NICE MICE: 95-year-old Brownie Witbeck from Raymond shows off his ‘mouse house’ pumpkin at the Green Haven Pumpkin Festival in Lethbridge last week. It is a fundraiser for the Children’s Wish Foundation.
After early totals, approximately $21,000 was raised for the Children’s Wish Foundation at the 29th Annual Giant Pumpkin Festival, which was held at the Green Haven Garden Centre in Lethbridge.
“The Giant Pumpkin Festival actually started with Earl’s Restaurant in Lethbridge,” noted Shannon Elves, who was in charge of information concerning the festival. “They just had the growing contest at first, but he partnered with the ladies at the Green Haven Garden Centre and they expanded the festival.”
Admission to the festival itself was free, Elves said, but there was a $5 charge for wristbands that would allow people to participate in the activities.
“The pumpkin festival is a community event where families and kids can come enjoy themselves and all funds collected are raised for the Children’s Wish Foundation,” Elves said. “It takes about $10,000 to grant a child’s wish, so our goal is to raise $30,000 and hopefully, we’ll be able to grant at least three wishes.”
Activities at the Pumpkin Festival included bouncy castles, games, pumpkin decorating, a photo booth, a puppet show, a petting zoo, and face painting. There was also a barbecue lunch and the selling of both pumpkins and holiday goods such as fudge, cookies, and pumpkin pies.
“The Children’s Wish Foundation is a very important cause, “This cause gives them a lot of hope while they’re going through their medical appointments and it also gives the family hope.”
Prior to the awards presentation for the biggest pumpkins, several people spoke about the day, what it meant to them to help Children’s Wish, and about their contributions.
“Thanks for coming out to such an awesome, awesome event for us and Children’s Wish,” said Karen Barby, a member of the Green Haven Garden Centre Committee. “All of the money that we raised here today will go to local wishes; to Southern Alberta wishes.”
“What a great event,” said Direct Energy representative Gary Newcomb. “We try to give back to the communities that we serve. I don’t think there’s anything more important or any better way to direct our energy than support the Children’s Wish Foundation. We’re proud to be giving a donation today to help children like Jackson and other kids in Lethbridge and Southern Alberta so they can have their wishes come true.”
A representative from the Immanuel Lutheran Church then spoke and promptly donated the proceeds of the church’s Ladies’ Salad Supper, which totaled $539, to Children’s Wish.
A young boy named Jaxon, who was in a wheelchair, then came to the front with his family and his mother, Brenda, spoke about how Jaxon’s pediatrician asked if it would be okay to give information to the Make A Wish Foundation. Brenda, of course, agreed. Within three days, the family had been approved for a wish and sent a package.
“We asked Jaxon what he wanted to do for his wish and he immediately told us on his device that he wanted to go to Disney,” Brenda said. “Then, he pulled up YouTube videos of Disney World at Christmas time and then pulled up videos of Star Wars Land. He then showed us a video of a lightsaber video with Darth Vader. Jaxon’s wish is to go to Disney World at Christmastime, battle Darth Vader in Star Wars Land, and open the park.”
Following the speeches, Brooksie from Country 95.5 announced the top four finishers in the giant pumpkin contest.
Fourth place, which was $100 cash from Green Haven, a $25 gift card from Earl’s, and a one-year online subscription to the Lethbridge Herald; went to John Bichma and his 244-pound pumpkin.
Third place, which was $150 cash from Green Haven, a $25 gift card from Earl’s, and a one-year online subscription to the Lethbridge Herald; went to John Schneider and his 437-pound pumpkin.
Second place, which was $200 cash from Green Haven, a $25 gift card from Earl’s, and a one-year online subscription to the Lethbridge Herald went to Phyllis Visser and her 476-pound pumpkin.
This year’s honorable mention went to 95-year-old Raymond resident Brownie Witbeck, who made a special pumpkin decorated up like a mouse house. “It might not be the biggest one here, but it’s the most creative,” Brooksie said.
First place, which was $300 cash from Green Haven, a $50 gift card from Earl’s, and a one-year online subscription to the Lethbridge Herald went to Brian Haas and his 761-pound pumpkin.
“Anyone that would like to take up the challenge to grow a giant pumpkin, they are a special variety of seed and the seeds are available at Green Haven every year,” Brooksie said. “Give it some thought and maybe next year, you could be one of our top four finishers.”
Overall, Green Haven Garden Centre was happy with the turnout and also very happy with the amount of money raised for Children’s Wish. Despite the cold weather, Elves says the Centre staff considers the event successful.
Top: Families enjoy what the pumpkin festival has to offer with Children’s WIsh helper Joanne Setla looking on. Below left: Logan Neil paints a pumpkin at the festival. Below right: Jackson (front), Brenda (left), and Danika, share Jackson’s wish to go to Disneyworld at Christmas time, have a lightsaber fight with Darth Vader in Star Wars World, and open the park.
Brian Haas shows off his first-place, 761-pound pumpkin.
A representative from the Immanuel Lutheran Church donates the proceeds of the church’s Ladies’ Salad Supper, which totaled $539, to Children’s Wish Foundation.