In 1992, a small group of Republic, Missouri citizens formed a committee to organize a harvest festival. They wanted something unique to draw interest and attendance from the far reaches of the region. The result of their brainstorming and hard work is now known worldwide as Republic Pumpkin Daze. Those men and women became the founding fathers and mothers of a growing festival that has captured the attention of giant pumpkin growers and curious onlookers.
The fascination with giant pumpkins first gained international attention at the turn of the twentieth century when William Warnock of Goderich, Ontario Canada, sent a 400 pound specimen to the Paris World's Fair of 1900. Warnock was awarded a special bronze medal and diploma from the French government. To further establish his place in the annals of world records, Warnock exhibited a 403 pound pumpkin at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904. His record stood until 1976.
With a Missouri connection to giant pumpkin history and the overwhelming enthusiasm of the committee, the Kiwanis Club of Republic sponsored the World Pumpkin Confederation Weigh-Off held in Republic on October 3, 1992.
From the beginning, the need for organization was recognized and the Giant Harvest Association, Inc. was created. This non-profit organization coordinated the World Pumpkin Confederation Weigh-Off and Pumpkin Daze Harvest Festival in 1993 and 1994. Then in 1995, the organizers of Pumpkin Daze switched to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth as their official weigh-in sanctioning agency. At that time the coordinating non-profit organization became Republic Pumpkin Daze, Inc.
The festival continues to grow in reputation, participation and attendance. More growers are competing; more retail, game and activity, concessions and informational booths are lining up and down Main Avenue; and more people of all ages from near and far are flocking to the best place to be each year on the first Saturday in October.
With Pumpkin Daze being held on Main Avenue in downtown Republic, the cooperation of city officials has been crucial to the location as two blocks of State Highway N cordoned off for the event.
It is claimed that at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, several foods were invented, including the hamburger, the hot dog, the ice cream cone and cotton candy. Whether these claims are true or not is greatly debated. However, William Warnock and his world champion 403-pound pumpkin was real, and a legacy thrives in Republic, Missouri.
On the first Saturday in October everyone is welcome to view the giant fruits and vegetables, meet the growers, shop the booths and munch on the now traditional hamburgers, hot dogs, ice cream cones and cotton candy.
For more information on Pumpkin Daze, call 417-732-6210.