Festival creates pumpkins of a different color

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— How fast can throngs of children eager to paint pumpkins go through about two tons of the vegetable?

About 30 minutes, Pumpkin Festival organizer Rob McCarthy said.
"This is just over and above from last year," McCarthy said as he tried to juggle bottles of bright tempura paint and paintbrushes. "We're going to have to go back and clean out Safeway."

Saturday's 15th annual Pumpkin Festival kept McCarthy and other volunteers on their toes, especially because the kids flew through the truckloads of pumpkins in less than an hour.

McCarthy estimates that more than 400 children showed up to cover their pumpkins, themselves and the Soda Creek Elementary School parking lot in paint in hopes of winning a prize or a ribbon for the most creative pumpkin.

"This is just a fun thing we like to do for the kids every year," McCarthy said. "It's a great opportunity for them to show off."

Erika Potter, 9, of Steamboat Springs said she woke up at 3 a.m. Saturday thinking it was time to go paint pumpkins.

"I was so excited," she said.

Erika's mother, Heather, and Erika's three siblings, Keona, 2, Ardeth, 6 months, and Mariah, 3, also had a good time getting out into the sunshine and putting their creative juices to work.

"This is a super event because with four kids, it is really hard to find something everyone likes doing," Heather Potter said.

Potter said she was glad the kids were able to get out and paint and even more glad that someone else got to clean up the mess.

While Erika was focusing on creating her abstract masterpiece with two triangle eyes and a jagged smile, other children's pumpkins resembled mountain scenes, rabbits and even a strawberry.

"The kids really get into decorating their pumpkins. Some of them even bring props from home to add to their pumpkins," McCarthy said.

Abby Kissane, 11, Halle Bramer, 10, and Paige Miller, 10, stayed up until 4 a.m. the night before the festival and were planning to go to the movies after painting their pumpkins.

"We were excited last night because we knew we were coming here in the morning," Abby said.

Abby decided to use a nontraditional method to decorate her pumpkin.

"I'm just going to splatter mine because I don't like being normal," she said.

McCarthy said he thinks the festival is one of the community's favorite events because the children get to do something fun and parents can get to be involved with the process or socialize.

"This is a popular event because it's for the family. Parents enjoy coming out while their kids just go crazy with these pumpkins," he said.

McCarthy works for the Steamboat Springs Optimist Club, which sponsors the event with TIC each year.
"Our motto is to be a friend of youth. This is just one of the activities that we do all year long for our kids," he said.

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