Eight-month-old Daniel McLaughlin sits on the ground after finishing painting pumpkins Saturday during the 18th annual Pumpkin Festival at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. Daniel was at the event with his dad, Don McLaughlin.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Eight-month-old Daniel McLaughlin sits on the ground after finishing painting pumpkins Saturday during the 18th annual Pumpkin Festival at the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena. Daniel was at the event with his dad, Don McLaughlin.

Children decorate pumpkins at Optimist Club event

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Eight-year-old Riley Noble picks up his first-place ribbon and pumpkin Saturday at the Pumpkin Festival awards ceremony.

— Riley Noble studied his pumpkin. It already was bright and colorful, but it needed something more. Inspired, he began dribbling paint from his paintbrush, in the style of Jackson Pollock, to create an abstract Halloween decoration.

"He had a little bit of a writer's block earlier, but he's been concentrating for a couple minutes now," said Riley's dad, Charlie Noble, as he watched his son paint. "It's all about the cookies."

Riley went on to win first place in the 8-year-old division during the 18th annual Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, sponsored by the Optimist Club of Steamboat Springs and TIC. The two groups purchased more than 4,000 pounds of pumpkins for the event.

"It's popular because the families can socialize while the kids have fun," said Rob MacCarthy, president of the Optimist club.

The festival is the largest event of the year for the Optimists, and children filled the paved parking lot at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.

Denise Warzel and her 9-year-old son, Ben, were visiting from Denver for the day. She said the event was a great way to spend time while her husband fished the Yampa River.

"We stayed in town so we could get the feel of Steamboat," she said. "But we had no idea this was going on."

Ben, a fan of the Star Wars movies, painted his pumpkin all black with the grey face of Darth Vader on the front.

"My favorite is Obi-Wan (Kenobi), but I don't think I can do that kind of detail," Ben said.

Ben said the pumpkin will go well with his Jango Fett costume he plans to wear this year. Hanna Haggarty, who won the 10-and-older division, said she planned her pumpkin before she arrived. Painted with a bright green base and one large eye on the front, her pumpkin took the shape of the cyclops "Mike" from the animated film "Monsters, Inc."

"I saw it online, and I thought it was very creative," she said.

The Optimist Club also used the event as an opportunity to recruit new members, something that has become a challenge, MacCarthy said.

"The average age of our club is 55 to 56 years old, so we would like to get some younger family members," he said. "I would like this event to go for another 18 years."

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