Auburn Festival provides fall kick-off fun

Event celebrates everything from giant pumpkins to homemade scarecrows
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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Ready for some giant pumpkins, creative costumes and thrilling scarecrows? It’s time again for the Auburn Community Festival. Saturday is the 15th year of the annual event, and local officials are ready for the celebration. “It’s such a nice event,” said Kahl Muscott, administrator for the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District. “It brings the community together. It’s just always been a really pleasant day out there. I have said before it’s got no pretense, it’s just very fun, casual. Come out and have a good day and enjoy the great community you live in. I have got family from the Bay Area that comes up for this thing, they like it so much.” The festival includes its traditional giant pumpkin contest, and several local growers, including Richard Westervelt, of Granite Bay, have hopes for huge entries. Westervelt said his pumpkin is currently weighing in at about 1,250 to 1,300 pounds. This is Westervelt’s third year entering a pumpkin and two years ago he took second place. It’s always fun to see children react to the pumpkins and he has high hopes for a possible win this year, Westervelt said. “Their eyes are gigantic wide open and they are just, ‘Oh my God,’” he said. “They can’t believe what they are seeing. They expect to see a pumpkin they see in a pumpkin patch. It even blows me away every time I look at my pumpkin. I’m looking forward to hoping nobody gets there with a bigger pumpkin than me.” Westervelt said he spends two to three hours every day on each pumpkin vine, and he started out with six this year. Former giant pumpkin winner and Auburn resident Randy Warren said he doesn’t have any huge entries this year, but he plans to bring a couple smaller pumpkins — smaller meaning 300 or 400 pounds. Warren said it’s hard to tell how the competition is going to go, because you never know who will enter. “We could be getting people from Sacramento, Elk Grove, Napa even,” he said. “It’s kind of a chess game at this time of year as to where you take your pumpkin and how well it’s going to do.” The real strategy to getting the pumpkins to grow is providing more nutrients in the Auburn dirt, and Warren said he uses different types of compost. Meadow Vista resident Keith Goodrich was last year’s giant pumpkin winner, with a 1,285.5-pound entry. “I enjoy growing giant pumpkins, and the festival is a great opportunity to share the products of the garden with the community and see the enjoyment, especially what they are bringing to the kids,” Goodrich said. “It’s fascinating to see just how fast they grow. It’s challenging to see how you can improve each year, making minor adjustments to the growing technique. And then of course it’s the competition also.” Auburn resident Delores Shirley is participating in her first scarecrow contest at the festival this year. Shirley said her entry is called “Scaredeer” and was inspired by local deer loving to chow down on residents’ roses. “It’s made up with things I found around the house,” Shirley said. “The head is a broom. I made the big nose from stockings and he has ears and antlers out of branches. He’s a little different.” Shirley said the exhibit will also include fake deer standing near pots of roses to represent those the Scaredeer is supposed to keep away. “Seeing the scarecrows that were there last year, I thought they were so original,” she said. “And I am, in a way, a little artistic, and I thought I would just like to try it.” Muscott said although there aren’t any huge differences at this year’s festival, it’s also very unique. “It’s never the same festival,” he said. “You always have different scarecrows, different music. If nothing else, it’s to come out and enjoy Recreation Park. We have these wonderful mature oak trees and it’s such a nice park.” Reach Bridget Jones at ------------------------------------------------------ 15th annual Auburn Community Festival When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Where: Recreation Park, 123 Recreation Drive, Auburn Cost: Free to attend Information: Call the Auburn Area Recreation and Parks District at (530) 885-8461 or visit ------------------------------------------------------ Community Festival highlights • Giant pumpkin contest • Scarecrow contest • Recipe contest • Costume parade and contest • $10,000 in prize money • Live music from band the Humperheads • 50-60 vendor booths including crafts and food • Kids can make tile art to be displayed at Placer Hills Pool • Inflatable obstacle course and bounce houses ------------------------------------------------------ Pumpkins the new cash cow? • Granite Bay resident Richard Westervelt said people have offered to pay him 50 cents for each pound of his approximately 1,300 pound pumpkin, which totals at about $650. • Pieces of the pumpkin are then used for displays in places like casinos in Las Vegas • If he won first place at the Auburn Community Festival giant pumpkin contest, Westervelt could make $1,500 • A bonus for heaviest Placer County grown pumpkin would give him an additional $500