Elon University’s garden studio class hosted its annual Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 27. Visitors gathered around the community garden entrance as they participated in a variety of activities and explored what the Elon Community Garden had to offer.

The event started slowly, with more visitors arriving at the garden as the minutes went by. Within the first 30 minutes, the garden was filled with dozens of visitors, both from the Elon Community and outside of Elon. 

Pumpkin carving in particular was one of the more popular activities. Despite having multiple tables with activities such as, providing apple cider and brunswick stew, face painting and selling jewelry, most visitors claimed that they enjoyed carving pumpkins out of all the activities at the pumpkin festival.

Elon graduate student Vanessa Truelove attended the event and said she particularly liked the pumpkin carving activities, at which she made a pumpkin mask. 

Children in particular were interested in the activity. Visitors were free to choose from a selection of pumpkins provided by local farmers and shape them to their liking. Furthermore, when they were finished carving their pumpkins, they could bring their pumpkin seeds to the Elon Volunteer’s table — who would wash and bag the seeds for visitors to take home and roast themselves.

Another activity visitors enjoyed was the hot sauce table. Hot sauces such as tabasco and the Grim Reaper were laid out on display for visitors to sample. The temperature ranged from mild to extreme, attracting visitors as they tested their spice tolerance. Senior Eli Bier said he had fun trying the different hot sauces with his friends.

“It was great to try some of the hotter sauces with my friends and see their reactions compared to my own,” Bier said.

Besides activities, however, visitors also explored the community garden and examined the work of the Garden Studio class. Ryan Campbell, a senior at Elon, was unaware that Elon had a community garden until he came to the pumpkin festival. When he saw the garden for the first time, he had nothing but praise for the class’s work.

“I had no idea that this was here,” Campbell said. “It was actually kind of impressive to see some of the stuff you have.”

Megan Kaliner ‘23 said she used to be a part of the Garden Studio class and helped run the pumpkin festival when she was a student at Elon. Now returning to the festival as a visitor, she said she was ambivalent about attending the Pumpkin Festival. While she's happy that she does not have to deal with the stress of planning for the event, she said she felt nostalgic for her time at Elon. 

“It’s a little bittersweet because this is also my time back at Elon since graduating, so I’m having some mixed emotions,” Kaliner said.

Michael Strickland, the professor of the Garden Studio Fall/Winter class, was the one who started the annual Pumpkin Festival event 15 years ago. He said that the idea for the pumpkin festival came from a student he was teaching in 2008. After they pitched the idea to him, the class held their first pumpkin festival that year.

“It’s grown a lot,” Strickland said. “Before the pandemic we were peeking out at 400 people, and I think we’re just now starting to get back up to those numbers.”

According to Strickland, the Garden Studio class is designed to teach students about gardening on a household level. The class used to foster gardens at other institutions, such as Elon Elementary school and Burlington homes — in addition to holding the event. Strickland said the goal behind this was to give people the knowledge and momentum to start and maintain these gardens by themselves. 

Strickland also said he hopes that by seeing the results of the students of the Garden Studio class, the Pumpkin Festival will promote more individual gardening among household gardeners.

“The traditional gardener doesn’t think about gardening this time of year,” Strickland said. “They just think during the high season of summer. When they see what the students have in their plots, they can get a sense that gardening can be, in most places, a year round activity.”