Festival raises funds for South Elgin parks
by Janelle Walker for The Courier-News October 5, 2013 10:14PM
South Elgin Parks and Recreation employees herd mini pumpkins down the Fox River during the fourth-annual Pumpkin Plunge race. The pumpkins -- grown on land owned by Mike Kenyon -- are marked with numbers corresponding to raffle tickets, and the first pumpkin to cross the finish line nets the owner $300. | Janelle Walker ~ For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 7, 2013 6:51AM
SOUTH ELGIN — For the past 13 years, Mike Kenyon has planted and cared for a pumpkin patch at his farm here.
Instead of selling them at a roadside stand, the pumpkins are harvested by South Elgin village employees and sold every fall at the South Elgin Pumpkin Patch and Fall Festival.
The festival, held Saturday at SEBA and County Parks, was expected to raise $3,000 towards the FUNdation — the Parks and Recreation department’s charitable foundation, said Shane Hamilton, parks director.
That annual event also has grown every year since the first batch of pumpkins — priced from $1-$5 each — was sold, Hamilton said.
The Harvest Hustle 7K run and 2-mile fun walk was added nine years ago, and for the past four years South Elgin has added the Pumpkin Plunge, giving families more reasons to come out. Funds raised by the event go to allowing children to attend programs they otherwise might not be able to afford, Hamilton said.
While popular in the village, the number of participants in the Harvest Hustle has remained steady, he added.
This year, 197 people ran the 7K course and another 126 people walked it, Hamilton said. Those numbers have remained constant over the years likely because the course is “challenging,” Hamilton said.
“Because we are in a valley, the course is uphill, both ways,” Hamilton said.
It was Hamilton’s dad, Ken, who came up with the idea of a pumpkin patch event for village children, and Ken Hamilton was helping Saturday, wading through the Fox River. He helped dump mini-pumpkins — also grown on Kenyon’s farm — into the river for the Pumpkin Plunge.
Like a class “duck race” the village sells raffle tickets that correspond to a number inked on each pumpkin. The ticket holder whose pumpkin crossed the line first got $300, and the second-place pumpkin garnered $200.
The last-place pumpkin also wins a prize — $25 for the unlucky ticket holder.
Some of the mini-pumpkins sink when hitting the water, Ken Hamilton said. But unlike rubber duckies, those that might get left behind are safe for wildlife to eat.
Every year, Shane Hamilton said, the village has added something to the event and it’s grown in popularity in the area. This year, spaces were sold to residents to bring household goods and have rummage sale booths.
“We have a captive audience for them” to sell to at the park, he noted.