(photos courtesy Randy Strothman)

by Mark Powell

More than 5,000 parents and 1,300 children attended the 22nd annual Pumpkinfest Saturday, which included a pumpkin carving contest, pony rides and much more.

With the help of volunteers in the Northside community, East Park was turned into a sea of orange for the weekend event.

“It took months and months of planning,” said Pumpkinfest organizer Barbara Burns. “Hopefully visitors saw the Northside as the engaging place that it can be.”

More than 1,000 pumpkins were decorated and given away and there were performances on two separate stages by Pittsburgh’s own Blues Orphans, Molly Alphabet, Pittsburgh Puppet Works and Kid City Rockers.

Participants showcased their creativity in a take-home Jack-O-Lantern contest and dug through a giant haystack in search of treats. There were also pony rides, a petting zoo, a miniature train and jump in giant inflatables.

Organizers hope that Pumpkinfest was a memorable event in children’s early lives. As the event reaches its second generation, Pumpknfest organizers saw some familiar faces.

“We have people who came as children bringing their children,” said Burns. “Now that’s special.”

With support from Allegheny General Hospital, East Allegheny Community Council, Allegheny Center Alliance Church, Citiparks and the Northside Leadership Conferenc,e Pumpkinfest is meant to be an informative event for parents as well as a fun day for their kids.

Representatives from local hospitals and service organizations come to Pumpkinfest to tell inform parets what resources are available to them.

“One day in the park can change peoples’ lives,” said Burns. “That’s our goal.”