August 29, 2021
Written By: Main Street Square
Agriculture has long been South Dakota’s number one industry and embodies the hard working, Midwestern values that South Dakota residents have lived by for generations. Fall is celebrated as farmers in the region get to enjoy the fruits of their labor and share them with their neighbors. Those same values and neighborly acts were the premise of creating The Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival 13 years ago.
Since its inception, the Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival has offered several events to help usher Rapid City into fall. Some of those included a scarecrow decorating contest, pumpkin themed cooking contests and cooking demonstrations by downtown chefs. “Because we have families that look forward to coming every year, we try to find ways to add to the event. Some of them worked and some didn’t, but we are always trying to find ways to enhance the event,” stated Megan Whitman, Executive Director from 2011–2017.
Over the years, the event has kept traditions such as the pumpkin weigh-off and the pumpkin catapult. Matt Whiney, a local grower, partners with Main Street Square to run the pumpkin weigh-off. This event is registered by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the governing body for growing enthusiasts around the world. The pumpkin catapult is a partnership with South Dakota School of Mines and Technology as students showcase their engineering talents for the entire region.
Events like Pumpkin Fest and other downtown events have changed since the pandemic, and these changes have allowed staff to revisit and keep them relevant. “One thing that came out of COVID-19 was that we could take our events down to the bare bones and rebuild them. We never want to take away from what the event is but some things are different now, people are looking at everything differently and we need to adapt,” stated Maja Marsh, Marketing Director for Main Street Square. “The biggest adjustment has been staffing and volunteers,” added Domico Rodriguez, President and CEO for Main Street Square. “Pre-COVID, we had a lot of part-time workers and getting volunteers was easy. Like the rest of the community, we have to figure out how to host events with less people,” added Rodriguez.
The Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival was one of a handful of events that were in the original plans for Main Street Square and Destination Rapid City prior to being built. Other Main Street Square events such as Bierborse and the Golden Hour Concert Series were outlined as reoccurring events that should be held in Downtown Rapid City by Venue Works out of Ames, Iowa.
“We have had some extremely successful events here over the years and now the next phase for Main Street Square is working on what’s next. Downtown looks a lot different than it did in 2010 and it will look even more different in 2031. Pumpkin Fest is a great example of evolution. Keep an eye out for more events coming from Main Street Square in the future,” stated Rodriguez.
The 13th Annual Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival
Saturday, September 25
10:00 A.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Did you know?
Two Buck Chuck, a large slingshot to shoot a pumpkin, was added last year.
Pumpkin Fest is the largest annual event hosted by Main Street Square bringing upwards of 10,000 people downtown.
The record pumpkin at this event was 1,569 pounds in 2015. The pumpkin was grown by Kevin Marsh from Parker, SD.