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Pumpkins & people: A great mix

Pumpkin Fair rolls into downtown Manteca

Pumpkins & people: A great mix

Giovanni Adison is all smiles during his search for the perfect pumpkin at the 2009 Pumpkin Fair's Kids Zone at Library Park.

POSTED October 2, 2010 12:52 a.m.

It’s time to once again do the Pumpkin Promenade.

It’s the annual two-day Manteca celebration that brings 40,000 people into downtown Manteca to savor Lockeford Sausage, try on a toe-ring or two, and interact with vendors selling everything from paintings and boutique blouses to collectibles and crafts.

And if you have kids when the 26th annual Sunrise Kiwanis Manteca Pumpkin Fair takes place then it is all the more fun.

After all — as George Perry — the undisputed King of West Coast Pumpkins will tell you there’s something magical about kids and pumpkins.

If you doubt that make sure you drop by the Kids Zone sponsored by South San Joaquin Irrigation District that you’ll find under the stately sycamore trees at Library Park today and Sunday 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’ rides that you can buy tickets for on Manteca Avenue.

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 a Zumba dance exercise demonstration from the folks at In Shape, singers, dancers, karate and gymnastic demonstrations, scarecrow and pumpkin carving contest, police canine demonstration, and even a dance competition featuring local celebrities.

Just across the way at the Main Stage at Manteca and Sycamore avenues is the featured entertainment. It includes the Lelan Cain Band performing from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today and Threshold offering funk as well as R&B from 4 to 6 p.m., also today.

Then on Sunday the beat changes with Mario Flores providing Latin jazz from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. followed by the classic rock group 209 All-Stars from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

You can enjoy the bands as wall 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 in the 100 and 200 blocks of East Yosemite Avenue.

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

Strolling along Yosemite Avenue, Maple Avenue, and Sycamore Avenue to take in 180 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 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 will 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 worldwide attention.

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