The Pumpkin Show!

If you have grown up in Circleville, Ohio like I have, you know this picturesque little town doesn’t offer much.


For the third week of October every year.

It’s a week you look forward to all year long, sometimes (dare I say it?) more so than Christmas. Driving to church on the Sunday prior you have to take a detour because Court and Main streets downtown are closed off. Before you can grumble though, you notice the green tents, the flashy carnival rides, vendors, and carts setting up their fares. And your heart flutters with a childlike thrill. It’s The Pumpkin Show!

Over a hundred years old, The Pumpkin Show is not your normal small town festival. In fact, if you ever have  the audacity to refer to The Pumpkin Show as “The Pumpkin Festival” you will swiftly and, rather curtly, be corrected by one of the locals. That is, if you are not first blasted to ash by a Circlevillian’s livid laser beam glare.

The Pumpkin Show is four days long, Wednesday through Saturday. Tuesday night is open for locals only. Within four days this small town of 14,000 attracts over 400,000 show attendees from all over the nation. Local schools close. Traffic south of Columbus comes to a standstill. The cell towers freeze from the overwhelming mass of calls and texts from people trying to find others in their group. If you want to see the largest winning pumpkin, crowned and grandly weighing in at 1,312 pounds, be prepared to push your way through a clotted sea of baby strollers, elbows, and camera flashes.

Since Bryan and I made the cross-country move to Utah last year we missed The Pumpkin Show. For like, the first time. Ever. It was a lot more heart wrenching than I expected and I spent a lot of time tearfully watching the online webcam and craving hot mini pumpkin donuts.

This year, we were sure to not make the same mistake. It was a good thing too, because this year marked the ten year anniversary Bryan and I have been together. While still in high school, we went out on our first date to The Pumpkin Show. As we were walking back to Bryan’s car that night holding hands, knuckles white, traversing the shortcut through the alley by Ted Lewis park, Bryan awkwardly asked if I would be his girlfriend.

So yeah. I’m very fond of this time of year. There’s a lot of warm memories and happy reunions. Family flies in from out of town. You run into friends you haven’t seen for over a year. There’s a lot more to The Pumpkin Show than giant pumpkins and the freaking best pumpkin food on the planet (actually…I might have to retract the last part of that statement. It’s ALL about the food!).

Bryan and I have traditions that we follow each year at The Pumpkin Show. We always park at his aunt’s house so we can take the same shortcut through the alley. Every year, Bryan asks “the question.”

After waiting in a long line at the ATM, we walk past the bank to play the “Stick Game.” I don’t know what the game is actually called, but it’s basically a ring toss around cheap brightly colored walking sticks. There are nice sturdy canes you can win too, but they’re more difficult (yeah, I’ve won them).

Not to brag or anything, but I’m super good at this game. This year Bryan pointed out a glossy black stick that he really wanted. “Win it for me,” he said. “Okay,” I shrugged. First throw, and I land it. I’m still nowhere near as good as his Uncle Robert. The man is infamous. The “Stick Game” carneys recognize him every year and usually end up banning him from the game because he wins so much.

Proudly holding our flashy new walking stick, we walk down East Main street towards a tiny booth selling THE Mini Pumpkin Donuts. The line usually stretches down the street’s expanse, but lucky for us we’re able to walk up and lay down $3.50 for a baker’s dozen of heaven in the form of steaming sugary fried lumps of pumpkin-y dough. As we dig into the greasy bag we walk across the street to marvel at artist Jack Pine’s glass blown pumpkins.

Jack Pine comes out with a new color and style of pumpkin every year providing dedicated Pumpkin Show attendees the opportunity to purchase an exorbitantly expensive, yet exquisite collection of delicate multicolored glass gourds. I feel lucky enough to own just one.

As we have fasted all day in preparation for our Pumpkin Show binge, we head over to the Bourbon Street Grill and Cafe tent for some bourbon chicken. Remember this. Not all bourbon chicken is the same. The place to go to is beside the old Pumpkin Inn. Always look for the long lines. Or simply float along the thick billows of steam infused with the smell of spicy chicken frying hot on the grill on a crisp autumn night.

Lindsey’s Bakery is another must see, home of the world’s largest pumpkin pie.

Don’t pass on an opportunity to say hello to the Pumpkin Man! He’s there every day cheerfully rollerblading and waving at his fans in every afternoon and evening parade.

Circleville is very proud of its pumpkin-themed heritage and doesn’t miss an opportunity to boast about it. The Circleville water tower was designed to resemble a giant pumpkin. The man hole covers on the streets feature The Pumpkin Show logo. This year, the fire hydrants were painted to resemble pumpkins.

I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface of this splendid autumn holiday. You just need to go. Go for the pumpkin food from the pizza, chili, burgers, blossoms, bread, pancakes, butter, cookies, taffy, cake, cream puffs, fudge, brownies, ice cream, donuts, waffles, cappuccino, pie…all pumpkin! Be sure to bring along friends and family. Relish the feel of crunching through the leaves on the cracked sidewalks, admiring the old historical homes of downtown. Listen to the children screaming with delight on their first carnival ride. Cheer on the Miss Pumpkin Show candidates.

Even though the 107th year of The Pumpkin Show has now passed, please join me by sharing a comment of your favorite Pumpkin Show traditions or memories. If you’ve never been, you can try to lift your spirits by sharing your favorite moments from your own small town “festival.” It’s not going to make you feel any better, though. Not until you’ve feasted on hot mini pumpkin donuts.

Living in NYC

I’m finally back from my month long adventure in New York City. Even after five days Bryan and I still feel like we’re recovering. It’s a tough city to live in and one that’s constantly on the move. We found ourselves swept up in the perpetual rush…and spit out exhausted in the end (but not defeated!).

New York City pulses with life. Sewer exhaust billows from manholes and into the streets creating a mysterious atmosphere. Traffic jams are a symphony of aggressive, impatient drivers screeching their tires and laying on the horns. The streets are bustling with tourists and locals alike, bumping shoulders with the melting pot. The thrum of feet and clipping of heels on the sidewalk is drowned by the vibrations of the three to four stories of subways beneath.

In many ways New York City is like a foreign country. On a different planet. This post is about what I learned during my stay and includes a lot of helpful gems should you decide to visit.

During our stay Bryan and I watched a lot of the television show “How I Met Your Mother” as the story is set in the city and alludes to a lot of funny local references. The following clip declares what it takes to be a “Real New Yorker” (As a disclaimer, there is some mild language).

Subways were a much better mode of travel than taxis (which are absurdly expensive, although we did take one once, but that was after a red eye flight with an Oregon Trail’s load of luggage) or buses (erratic schedules). So I never stole a taxi from someone who needed it, although I’m sure I snagged a seat on the subway that someone needed more. And we didn’t see Woody Allen, but we did see a load of famous people…almost to the point of “Meh,” including stars from “Chuck,” “Smash,” “Ugly Betty,” and “White Collar (they filmed an episode of the show in the same building as the Grand Central Academy of Art where I had my workshop).” I did cry publicly at one point, although I’ll spare you the details. And I almost squashed a cockroach with my bare hand, but I stopped mid-squash. The way he was looking at me, waving his little antennae…he looked like the adorable little roach in Pixar’s “Wall-E.” So. With all of that in mind, I’ll let you decide whether or not I passed the “Real New Yorker” test.

What I Learned from Living In New York City (in no official order of awesomeness):

1. This is a walking city. Even with the extensive use of mass transit a lot of walking is involved. Expect blisters. And swelling. And pain. My lovely sister-in-law, Nicole, flew in for a weekend visit and recommended Band Aid’s Friction Stick. Put it on your feet like a stick of deodorant. It was a life saver. That and Ibuprofen.

2. During the summer in the city it is hot. The first few weeks of July were unbearable. High nineties with humidity in the city where there is no breeze amidst the maze of skyscrapers made Utah’s dry summer temps in the hundreds feel positively frigid. I read an article that said you need at least 140 degrees to cook an egg. The temperature of the sidewalks during an NYC summer reach above 145 degrees. Now imagine what it feels like below that sidewalk in the bowels of the subway system.

3. The subways are freaking awesome. Indeed, you are below ground in hot, wet, stagnant air surrounded by strangers who are miserable, surly, and sweating buckets and. Oh. The smell. However. The thrill of seeing your train pull in while you’re still at the top of a long flight of stairs. Running down the stairs, weaving through the traffic, the anticipation of whether or not you’re going to make it, and leaping triumphantly through the doors just as they close behind you. I have never felt more accomplished.

4. There are rats and cockroaches. Everywhere.

5. Speaking of rats and cockroaches, New York City is filled with rude people. I completely agree there are rude people wherever you go in the world, but NYC is especially congested. To be fair, we also met some of the kindest people we’ve ever encountered in our travels, but I’ve also never known the definition of rude until now. It’s not that New Yorkers are blunt, impatient, straightforward, and absolutely crazy (which they are. Even people who look totally normal. There was one nicely dressed guy who urinated in the subway station not twenty feet from where we were standing), it’s that they will forgo all manners and decency to get what they want. I have stories, but you’ll have to ask me to share them later. Just thinking about them now makes me boil. Ugh.

6. This observation came from my sister-in-law. She said that she had expected more beautiful people in the city. I understand what she meant. It’s not that people here aren’t attractive, it’s that they look so haggard. It’s impossible to keep up with the city’s pace without it affecting your health. The excessive smoking (not us) and coffee binges (maybe a little) certainly don’t help either. NYC is the place to claw your way to the top, but at what cost? I will say I thought it was very commendable that many of the women I observed in the city didn’t wear a lot of makeup, if any. Such confidence I wish I had.

7. The city is dirty. Before visiting I thought this meant I would be ankle deep in garbage just walking down the street. While that happens occasionally from people digging though the trash bags looking for recyclables, this dirty comes in the form of a black grime that settles on your skin and into your eyes and nose. Moist towelettes, tissues, and hand sanitizer are invaluable. Wear dark clothing.

8. The food! NYC is a Mecca for foodies. There are the city’s must tries like the cheesecake (check out Magnolia’s Bakery) and pizza (there are lots of options here, although I will claim that the best pizza is in the most unlikely of places…Provo, Utah’s Slab Pizza. Soo good.). Don’t fear the food carts. It’s an integral part of the NYC experience. The trick is to look for the long lines. Our favorite was The Halal Guys on 53rd and 6th. There are a lot of carts posing with the same name, so be sure to steer towards this location. Try the falafel. And when they say the hot sauce is very hot, it’s very hot. Bryan suffered for a few days. Katz’s Delicatessen, New York’s oldest deli, is also a must try. They are best known for their melt in your mouth pastrami. I think my favorite place, however, was Ess-a-Bagel. After experiencing my first authentic NYC style bagel, slathered in homemade strawberry cream cheese (with fresh chunks of strawberry), I am ashamed to think I’ve ever eaten a store bought bagel which, in comparison, is like sawdust in your mouth. I’m also too ashamed to admit how many bagels Bryan and I consumed during our stay.

9. This tidbit is for the travelers. Try not to dress or act like a tourist. This includes wearing a camera around your neck, taking pictures of squirrels (you wouldn’t believe how common this is), adorning your entire family in matching I Heart NYC tees, openly carrying a guidebook, and standing confusedly in the midst of sidewalk traffic (which is comparative to standing in the middle of a freeway) to open a large map. Rather, if you’re lost, move over off the sidewalk and whip out the smartphone map, NYC Subway App or TripAdvisor App (way more discreet). Also, if you’re in Times Square you’re automatically targeted a tourist. Visiting NYC you’ll encounter a lot of people trying to hand you advertisements for shows, attractions, and who knows what else. Learn to be assertive and ignore them. At first you’ll feel a little guilty for being rude, but it happens so often it’ll become much easier very quickly.

10. NYC is saturated with memorials, museums, parks, and culture. Some of our favorite places included Bryant Park, the MoMA and the Rain Room, The Frick Collection, The Morgan Library, Central Park, the 9/11 Memorial, the Brooklyn Museum, The Cloisters, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also the largest art museum in the world with two million square feet! Bryan had a little more time on his hands than I did and visited the Met once or twice a week. After his tenth visit he finally saw everything (but that was rushing through a lot of the rooms). This isn’t well known, but the Met’s admission is pay as you wish. We witnessed one museum goer ahead of us in line really struggle with this concept. Admission is recommended $25 per person. We watched as he opened his wallet and counted the few meager dollars he had in cash. He changed his mind and reached for his credit card. “Is $15 okay?” The attendant, rather bored, said it was fine. After the guy left with his receipt we walked up and promptly laid twenty cents on the counter. A lot of the museums in the city will also offer a free or pay as you wish day. There are a lot of incredible free summer events too. Like the Metropolitan Opera performing (for free!) in the city parks. Our absolute favorite was Shakespeare in the Park, which has a history of featuring renowned actors. The ticket line could begin at 6 AM but tickets wouldn’t be handed out until noon. It was so worth it, though. We were lucky enough to see the show twice. Believe it or not there was no pushing, craziness, or rudeness in the ticket line either. Much.

Exposing the Geek

I’m a geek. There. I said it. When the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy hit theaters while I was in high school I attended the midnight premiers donning pointed ears, hairy feet, and an Elven made brooch. I even made my own lembas bread. I’m also a Potterhead, Sherlockian, Trekkie, Bronie (what’s the feminine term?), and a Whovian.

This past weekend Bryan and I decided to venture where we’ve never gone before. We attended our very first Comicon.

We woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at 4 a.m. Saturday morning and arrived fashionably late to the airport (which is not a preferable way to arrive at an airport), cosplaying as the Doctor and Amy Pond (our costumes are important to this part of the story)…with forty minutes to get to our plane. And we still needed to park. And go through security. Which technically means we only had ten minutes to make our flight as they board thirty minutes prior. And Bryan had his Doctor’s sonic screwdriver tucked in our carry-on which made TSA very nervous and they had to run our bag through the x-ray twice. Which made us even more nervous that we wouldn’t make our flight. So nervous, in fact, that we ran pellmell to our gate and Bryan accidentally abandoned his Doctor Who themed wallet at security (but that’s another story). We made it though, just as they were shutting the gate.  Whew!

We were on our way to the Phoenix Comicon.

I have to be honest. I was very nervous about our first Comicon. I had the impression that Cons were these big reunions for the socially awkward who are over forty and still live in their parents’ basements playing World of Warcraft or watching anime.


It was awesome! There were 20,000 people attending, from infants to 90+, and all of them were super cool. And such talent. From the handmade costumes of the attendees, the artists, the writers, the actors. Everyone was just as excited as we were and eager to share in their passion or even lend a hand. For example, two wonderful ladies who have been attending Cons for decades gave us a ride from our hotel. After an exhausting day of geekiness, we stepped out into the Phoenix sun in search of food. Another Con goer noticed we looked a little lost and pointed us in the direction of nourishment.

One of the highlights of our adventure was watching cosplayers (and taking photos of/and with cosplayers). Here are Doctors five, ten, and eleven (Bryan is on the right).

Our costumes certainly weren’t original, but it was fun for our first Con to see the massive amount of Doctor Who fandom. One girl gave Bryan a hug and declared him the 45th Doctor she had embraced that day.

One Con attendee had his own remote-controlled Dalek!

My favorite part of the Con was meeting Vic Mignogna, best known as the voice actor for Edward Elric in Fullmetal Alchemist and as Captain Kirk in the new TV series Star Trek Continues.

We met some amazing people including John Barrowman, Mike Mignola, Will Wheaton, Andrew Hussie, Caitlin Glass, D’Vyne Wrytes, and James A. Owen. We quickly learned that Cons are not for everyone, including (and sometimes especially) the rich and famous. Some were very reserved or seemed withdrawn and didn’t want to speak with their doting fans. It was obvious some did not want to be there. There was one packed panel we ended up leaving due to the foul language being used (a couple of times in response to questions asked by preteens). I understand we’re all fallible, we’re all only human. It can be disappointing meeting your heroes because you suddenly realize the fantasy you had created in their place was nothing more.

Which brings me back to Vic. His relationship with his fans was unreal. While waiting in a very long line for his autograph, I watched as he took the time to talk and listen with each fan with complete sincerity and attentiveness. He had this way of making each person he came into contact with feel like they just rocked the world. When our turn came, I silently told myself I was going to behave respectfully and with absolute decorum. I did my best not to blubber and I’m sure I looked like a smiling idiot as Bryan and I walked away from our Vic encounter grinning from ear to ear. Until our cheeks ached. And dancing a little jig inside. After having some dreams crushed we realized truly what an incredible role model Vic was. What’s more, he’s also a devout Christian. And his fans love and respect him for it.

There was also a Lego artist at the Con. Check out the bow tie. Bow ties are cool.

Here’s an awesome cosplayer as Thor.

Characters from Soul Eater.

Twilight Sparkle’s brother, Shining Armor, from My Little Pony. Yeah!

Bryan with Homestuck author, Andrew Hussie. The story goes the Con did not realize what a massive Homestuck fan base there was (there were more Homestuck cosplayers than Doctor Who). The line for Andrew Hussie’s autograph was twice as long as John Barrowman’s, who was the biggest name at the Con. The line was so massive in fact, they had to send fans away. Bryan was only able to get an autograph because someone decided to prank pull the fire alarm. When they finally let us back in the building, we ran. And made it to the front of the line!

After the alarm was pulled, it was complete chaos and there were a lot of bad attitudes going around. We wondered if we should just skip the packed crowds waiting impatiently in the desert heat for the doors to be reopened for the final hour of the Con. But for some reason we decided to wait. That last hour ended up being the best of the entire weekend. Not only did Bryan get Andrew Hussie’s autograph, we ran into Vic and got another hug. We were giddy with geek awesomeness at this point, and stumbled upon a new friend, author and illustrator James A. Owen.

After talking with him and admiring his amazingly detailed pen and ink drawings we bought a copy of the first book in his series Here There Be Dragons. As he was drawing an original dragon portrait on the title page, we continued to admire his art. There was one print we really wanted to buy, but we were out of cash. As we were leaving, he not only gave us the print, but six additional prints of his illustrations! This time I didn’t leave my little jig inside.

Long story short, Comicons are cool. Almost as cool as bowties.