Trying to get ahead of the pandemic was just one of the things that inspired the St. Jacobs BIA to create the first annual pumpkin parade, which ran last weekend over Halloween. Last year the group created ‘Village Trick or Treating’ where candy was given to stores and people were encouraged to come during the day and get some sweet treats. Because the pandemic and social distancing rules made something like that more difficult, the BIA came up with a “COVID-proof” plan for an event.
The goal was to have an event that was safe and that was easily accommodated by businesses in the village, said Nick Benninger, co-founder of the Fat Sparrow Group.
“We had done our best to try to think about how we could save that event and make it COVID-proof. The solution we came up with was this pumpkin parade idea, because it could really easily be done with social distancing in mind,” he explained. “And even though you could probably pull off the trick-or-treating with social distancing as well, it put an unnecessary strain on the business’ storefronts: the last thing a business needed was 100 kids coming and going, not spending money, and making it hard for their actual customers to get through the door. So, we kind of thought this was the best way to keep the tradition of Halloween in the Village alive, while still being compliant with the needs of social distancing.”
During the course of the event, the BIA picked up 500 pumpkins and gave them away the week before Halloween. Residents would go to Block Three Brewing or Stone Crock and get their pumpkin, along with a postcard that explained the rules of the competition. Once the carving was done, those participants were asked to bring their finished masterpieces to the specified location on King Street on October 30 and 31, where volunteers would light them for display. To enter, all people needed to do was post a picture alongside the corresponding hashtag #StJPumpkinParade.
Benninger says they gave most of the pumpkins away, with about 20 remaining, adding that many other people ended up bringing their own pumpkins. In fact, there were a few blocks up the main road that were covered with pumpkins.
“We were encouraging people to bring their own pumpkins, as well as the ones we provided. So yeah, definitely a really good turnout. And there was a solid two to three blocks of town that were littered with pumpkins, and we kept it on just one side of King Street because we were kind of nervous about the traffic and the people,” he said.
Born of the coronavirus situation, the pumpkin parade ended up being so well received that the BIA is already looking at doing it again next year, though the pandemic remains an unknown factor at this point.
“We thought it was a raging success. We had a brief meeting yesterday as an events committee to kind of go over how it went and to start planning the last bits of ‘Sparkles,’ which is our next big thing [for Christmas]. We look forward to either repeating it next year, if COVID is still at issue, or if COVID has gone away a little bit, we intend to expand on it, to try and grow the event as we think the village of St. Jacobs is the perfect sort of ambiance to create these sorts of fun, spooky, family events,” Benninger said.