Story by Kristina Hoti
Despite a day with occasional spurts of misted rain, community families pulled on their rain gear and thoroughly enjoyed this year’s Pumpkinfest at Pine Island Park on Mon., Oct. 8, hosted by the Pine Island Chamber of Commerce.
This annual celebration of the local pumpkin harvest provides a full day of fun for children and families, offering pumpkin and rock painting, face painting and henna, bouncy houses, tractors to climb, food and treats, activities, and entertainment.
The event co-chairs, Jeanette Shanahan and Janet Zimmerman, worked tirelessly to bring together all of the community volunteers, donors, and participating businesses.
“Jeanette and I would like to say we’re happy to host an event worthy of this great Pine Island Community,” said Janet Zimmerman, who, along with her husband Jerry, will be honored at the end of this month, as the 2018 Pine Island Citizens of the Year.
In one very limited spare moment during the event, Jerry Zimmerman cheerily made it very clear that this event is “all for the kids – we don’t do this to make money. [The entrance fee] is just so we can stay in business!”
Children receive a wristband for a nominal $5 entrance fee, which covers the cost of arts and crafts supplies so that each child can paint a pumpkin to bring home. All activities within Pumpkinfest are included with the admission price.
The more than 800 pumpkins for this event were donated by John and Paul Ruszkiewicz, and George Verno, of Maskers Orchards, donated jugs of apple cider and tons of apples. Leonard and Greg DeBuck and John Ruszkiewicz loaned their tractors for kids to explore and climb on, and Leonard DeBuck also donated the decorative corn stalks and pumpkins, as well as the large pumpkins used for a “Guess the Weight” challenge.
D’Antonio Dance Academy, of Pine Island, not only presented three group dance performances, but also provided a Halloween-themed corn hole activity, and gift certificates for the Princess Court gift bags. Saima Ajmal, of Warwick Henna, provided henna; Mulch Right, Inc. provided rocks for painting, Lisa Flowers provided crowns for the Princess Court; Tuey and Jim Leshinski, of Leshinki Electric, provided large bags of candy; Carol Lahti of Kids Club house, provided treats; Nikki Conklin, of Island Salon, provided the Princess Court goody bags; Legoland provided Lego games; and Burger King provided coupons.
Additional activities included a tumble and balance course, by Orange County Sports Club Sports, Fitness & Fun Gymnastics, 4H sponsored rock painting and crafts, and a two-week old cow calf named Arthur, of Ackerly Dairy Farm in Vernon, NY, was in attendance and soaking up lots of attention from the children.
Hannah Legnini, 2, of Montgomery enjoyed petting Arthur. According to her mom, “she is obsessed with Halloween and animals, so I figured [this event] was perfect,” and well worth the 40-minute drive from where they live.
In addition to the many local business and adults volunteering their time and energy to make this event the success that it is, many high school students volunteered as well. Warwick Valley H.S. juniors, Vidar Hageman and Sophia Duggar, and senior Catherine Slaybaugh, were helping out at the bouncy house, checking for admission wristbands and making sure that the smallest children could safely enter and exit.
Being so close to graduation, all three have more than completed their 20 volunteer hours that are required for high school graduation, yet they continue to volunteer for the enjoyment of giving back.
“I have about 40-50 hours now,” said Hageman.
This year was the second year of the Miss Pumpkinfest Pageant, with parents submitting their children’s names, and the winners being selected by a drawing. The 2018 Pumpkinfest Princess winner was April McCosker, with Isabella R. Foote and Jane Paul the runners-up, winning places on the Princess Court.
Also providing entertainment throughout the entire event was the Greenwood Lake Music School, The Rock Underground, which celebrated its third year in business on the same weekend of Pumpkinfest. An all-ages music school with classes for those four and up, The Rock Underground offers private lessons and forms ensemble groups among its students.
Owner Matthew Barile spoke of his students and program with great pride saying, “We teach music, but we develop leaders. Being part of a band is the ultimate presentation of teamwork. It develops social skills, the ability to work with each other, and develops discipline.”
One of the ensembles playing classic rock that day was comprised of Jade Rubarth, 12, on drums, Miranda Mann, 15, on bass guitar and vocals, Mason, 13, on guitar and vocals, Vinnie Pinnavaia, 14, on guitar, and Jack Kaminsky, 13, on keyboard. This particular group has been playing together for one-and-a-half years.
The fact that Monday’s event kicked off the start of Fire Prevention Week was not lost on the community; the Pine Island Firehouse and Ambulance were at the park, with fire trucks and ambulances for kids to explore, also providing fire prevention and safety materials for children to take home. State Trooper Joe Bleichner and his K9 partner Blair were present as well to speak to children and answer questions.
To view more photos visit the Warwick Valley Dispatch website at www.wvdispatch.com.