Gourd and Plenty : 30 Tons of Pumpkins Please the Crowds at Calabasas Days Fest


Pumpkin seeds were flying at the fourth annual Calabasas Days Pumpkin Festival on Sunday as dozens of children and even a few adults displayed their less-than-civilized techniques at the event's pumpkin-seed-spitting contest.

Seven-year-old Sara Feldman of Woodland Hills had her seeds fall closest to the competition's starting line--not a good showing--but she and her family nonetheless managed to take it in stride.

Her mom blamed it on her missing front teeth, but everyone knew that Sara had had little practice in spitting seeds--or anything else--15 feet into the air compared to some of her more experienced competitors.

And that was a good thing.

Besides, there were better things to do at the fair, including face painting, pumpkin decorating, a costume contest and even a pie-eating race. The weekend event drew an estimated 16,000 people, fair organizers said.

Randy Hellman, a 9-year-old from Woodland Hills, beat nine other kids in the pie-eating contest by gobbling most of a pumpkin pie in a minute.

"I just wanted to do it for fun," Randy said later. "I feel sort of sick because I stuffed it all down and it got up my nose."

Other kids spent hours on activities that were less physically demanding, such as painting plaster Halloween figurines, getting fake tattoos or just eating ice cream.

But for all the games the festival offered, what appealed most to the littlest ones were the huge gourds scattered everywhere at the famous Paramount Ranch just outside Agoura Hills.

About 30 tons of pumpkins were brought from an Oxnard farm to the sprawling ranch, which houses the old, Western-style town that doubles as the location for the television show "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."

A four-foot pile of bright orange pumpkins sat atop and around an old, Western-style wagon at the event's entrance, filling an area about the size of a car. The festival featured dozens of craft and food booths, including one that, not surprisingly, served pumpkin pies.

The biggest pumpkins at the festival, appropriately called "Big Macs," weighed in at a hefty 300 pounds. There were the more traditional--and more portable--pumpkins, the 25-pound Connecticut variety. And of course, there were the little sugar pumpkins, small enough to be carried in one hand.

All three types were being sold to festival-goers; the event served as a fund-raiser for the Calabasas Chamber of Commerce and many local nonprofit organizations. The festival, sponsored by the city of Calabasas and the chamber, also offered entertainment for adults.

There was jazz by Chet McCracken, rockabilly by Russel Scott and the Red Hots, and bluegrass music by the Witcher Brothers and Rock Springs Road.

Benjie and Dusty Osmanson, 16 and 14, of Santa Clarita, offered a little bluegrass music of their own, playing their mandolin and banjo for tips while sitting on a huge pile of gourds near the entrance. The brothers spent seven hours in the hot sun hoping their perseverance would pay off.

"We usually get other jobs from doing this," said a red-faced Benjie, taking a break from the mandolin. "But we have a lot of fun just fooling around with the little kids."

Craig and Cindy Montgomery of Westlake Village brought their 3-year-old daughter Tayler to the fair and walked away with a 25-pound Connecticut pumpkin that the family planned to carve on Halloween.

"This is our third time here," said Cindy Montgomery, as Craig plopped down $10 for the pumpkin. "We come to see the children's entertainment and museum."

But all Tayler could see was the pumpkin her father was carting off on his shoulder as she raced after him when the family headed home.

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