Go big or gourd home: the River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival returns

Published: Sep. 24, 2022 at 7:53 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ALTOONA, Wis. (WEAU) - The City of Altoona is welcoming fall with its 4th annual River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival and pumpkin growers seem to be following one mantra: go big or gourd home.

The festival was filled with a variety of events for the community.

“So, we had a race this morning, a running race, a rubber ducky race for the kids,” Mike Golat, Altoona City Administrator said. “We’ve got dessert contests, pumpkin dessert contests, and then at 3:00 p.m. we have our ginormous pumpkin drop where we’re going to drop a giant pumpkin filled with candy from 50 feet.”

But one of the biggest draws for this event was seeing the giant pumpkins.

“Giant pumpkins are magic. I mean, they’re just so much fun,” Golat said. “A kid sees them, their eyes light up, they smile. It is just something amazing and wonder, you know, wonderment when you see them.”

One of the pumpkin growers, Jim Suchanek, said his favorite part is seeing people’s reactions to the pumpkins.

“Asking if their kids can get on them and take a picture, that does it for me,” Suchanek said. “I love it. This is the best part of the year right now, showing it off.”

But Suchanek said the growing process is demanding.

“There’s a lot of upkeep. It could almost be a full-time job if, you know, there’s a lot of babying, a lot of tending during the year,” Suchanek said. “You start the seeds in early April, starting this fall. Now, I’ll start prepping my soil already this fall, and immediately in the spring, come April, I’m starting my seeds, warming the soil. The process is going at that point.”

Suchanek said he has high hopes for the future.

“I would love to get the state record someday, which is 2,283 pounds,” Suchanek said. “I have a 1,908 pound as my biggest. I got a little word to do, but I’m confident I can do it.”

This year, Suchanek’s pumpkin weighed around 1,400 pounds. The biggest at this year’s event was just over 2,000 pounds.

The River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival is an annual event scheduled for the last weekend in September.