NEW BREMEN — New Bremen Pumpkinfest returns Sept. 27-28 with music, arts and food this year, but it will go forward without the weighing of the large orange gourds — transitioning instead to a fall festival atmosphere that’s more about catching up with one another as a community.
“Instead of doing that, we are focusing on creating a fall festival,” said Lauren Bertke, who is organizing this year’s event.
She added there are a lot that of new events this year.
“Friday night, we’re opening with happy hour and a half,” she said.
There will be beverages for sale and two bands, Cottonwood and Brother Believe Me, will perform.
“It’s a soft opening because of the (football) game,” Bertke said.
Bertke said organizers expected people to trickle in before and after the game. The lack of the orange giants doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of pumpkins for participants to partake in. The annual pumpkin pancake breakfast is still on the schedule.
Also, Saturday’s first craft beer competition at 10 a.m. will feature two pumpkin ales and a Buckeye Brew as Dayton and Toledo area brewers compete for best beer.
Meanwhile, with sports on the big screen, vendors will sell pumpkin chili, fudge, pumpkin brats and pumpkin pie chili.
“I won’t give anything away on that, but it’s an interesting twist,” Bertke said of the chili.
For those worried about pumpkin-related calories, Saturday morning will feature a 20 mile and 50 mile bike ride called the Pumpkin Roll, after which they can walk the artisan showcase, an event gaining ground at the festival.
Last year, 12 artists participated, but this year 16 to 18 vendors have already signed up. For families, there will be inflatables at 10 a.m., a children’s pumpkin pie eating contest at 6 p.m., and, at 1 p.m., a judged sidewalk chalk challenge.
Boyd Dance Studio students will perform, and dessert artists can compete in the pumpkin pie bake off.
Saturday night, country band The Fits and rock band E-Z Rider will perform.
Tickets will be sold for two winner’s choice raffles that will allow the winner to pick between two large prizes — a $500 gift certificate for massage or a $1,000 new TV.
“There definitely will be a different feel.” Bertke said. “Before, we were so focused on the weigh off, but a lot of people didn’t focus on that.”
The weigh off was also a financial investment that didn’t pull in a lot of people, Bertke said.
“Financially it made more sense to sustain the festival in perpetuity,” Bertke said.
“Eventually we want to set up a charitable fund so it will all go back to the community ... I think there’s something for everybody.”