With state temperatures still climbing above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, many Floridians question whether October truly represents the change of season from summer to fall. Despite the weather, the Fruitville Grove Pumpkin Festival aims to celebrate the arrival of fall with copious cornucopias, plump pumpkins and festivities for families and locals to enjoy.
The Pumpkin Festival is an annual event held by Fruitville Grove, a farm-fresh family market that offers a wide variety of produce, jams, honey, butter, snacks, hand-dipped ice cream and other organic, gluten-free and non-GMO items. Opened in 1987 by the Taylor family, the store prides itself on its family-oriented approach to local farming and community engagement.
“My mom started the festival because she realized, when I was born, there weren’t many things going on in Sarasota for families to do—community events—so she figured, ‘Well if no one else is doing it, I may as well start,’” festival organizer Nadia Taylor said.
“It was very small, it was back when we had a small store in the back, we had a few vendors and a lot of the vendors are actually still here with us today.”
After spending last fall in Washington D.C., thesis student Ormond Derrick appreciated Fruitville Grove’s efforts to bring the season to Florida.
“Seeing the colors of the leaves change in D.C. made me really value mother nature,” Derrick said. “While it’s not nearly as cool here as it was in D.C., this festival brings me back to some really good memories.”
After bringing fall splendor to Sarasota for 31 consecutive years, the Pumpkin Festival set a new record last weekend. Sunday, Oct. 20 brought the largest crowd the festival has seen to date. Groups of people enjoyed food from various food trucks, crafts from local vendors, circus performances, petting zoos, live music and more.
“Every year we just built it up,” Taylor said. “Every year we would get a couple more vendors, every year we would offer new activities, and so today you caught it on our busiest day yet. We’ve never been this busy, this is our absolute busiest day.”
The festival does not charge a fee for admission or parking, allowing visitors to spend money on the food they choose to eat and the activities they choose to partake in.
“We try to let everybody know that it’s free admission and free parking and what keeps us going every single year is purchases of pumpkins,” Taylor said.
The pumpkin patch, located directly at the entrance of the festival, sports pumpkins of all types, shapes, colors, sizes and textures. The variety enables visitors to find the perfect pumpkin, whether they desire large pumpkins to carve, small pumpkins to use as tableside decorations or deliciously plump pumpkins to cook into pies.
The Pumpkin Festival also brings community businesses together.
This is the first year that Kristin Sprinkle, owner and founder of Sprnkl Design, has joined the extensive list of vendors.
“They’re great here,” Sprinkle said. “They’re very family-oriented. I actually grew up coming here and now my kids get to come here too and enjoy the festival while I’m a vendor. The event really helps with the community feel.”
“Next weekend we’ll have the food trucks and loads of events,” Taylor said. “Come on out! We would love to have you!”
The last two days the festival is open are Saturday, Oct. 26 and Sunday, Oct. 27.