New life possible for Pumpkin Fest

February 27, 2019

ST. ANNE — A Papineau resident hopes to lead a new group of volunteers to save the 30-year-old St. Anne Pumpkin Festival.

Savannah Blake, a 2005 graduate of St. Anne Community High School, stepped up at Monday’s community meeting at St. Anne Village Hall to keep the event alive.

During the one-hour-long meeting, attended by eight people, Blake said she will attempt to get a committee of five volunteers to anchor the effort to keep the festival alive in 2019.

Mayor Dave O’Connell said the event would be held this year on the weekend of Sept. 21-22. While he has said he is willing to consider a change as to when the event could be held in the future, he said it would be too late to alter the 2019 event.

During the meeting, O’Connell told interested village residents subsequent festivals could be held at other times of the year. He said the event would not be required to carry the name Pumpkin Fest.

O’Connell informed Blake she would need to be at the March 11 St. Anne Village Board meeting and have at least a five-person committee in place. If that group is not in place by that time, the event likely will die.

“Time is of the essence,” the mayor said. “You need to put a group together that will take this project and run with it.”

The festival has been on the verge of becoming a thing of the past as its two longtime coordinators, Bob Hubert and Barb Deneau, recently announced they would be stepping away after coordinating the event the past nine years.

St. Anne’s signature event has been held in late September throughout its existence, but in recent years it has been held the same weekend as Manteno’s OktoberFest — one of Kankakee County’s popular community events.

In 2018, Pumpkin Fest was moved up one weekend to avoid competing against OktoberFest and attendance did improve, organizers said.

After the meeting, Blake explained she has attended St. Anne’s festival since childhood, and she wants to see it continue for her children as well.

She said she saw the mayor’s Facebook post last week in which he indicated the event might be coming to an end and began having conversations with others about stepping up to coordinate it.

“This is part of St. Anne. We have to step up,” she said.

She conceded she does not yet have enough help to pull the event from the brink.

She explained some people have expressed a willingness to step forward.

She is planning a 7 p.m. meeting next Monday at village hall to get a committee put together.

“We need people who will commit to putting this together,” she said. “This is not just about working the weekend of the event. If that’s all we can get, it just won’t happen.”

Last week Hubert said the event takes a full year of planning and organizing.