Westfield on Weekends (WOW) has always believed that bringing people together to share their similarities and their differences is of prime importance as our all-volunteer, 501 (c)(3) not-for-profit produces community activities. Many of our events and programs make us smile, but this past Saturday’s PumpkinFest made us beam – with pride and gratitude.
People often ask how WOW produces such a giant happening and the story of the 3rd annual PumpkinFest is worth telling. First, it could not happen without financial support, including our premium sponsor, Baystate Health and Baystate Noble Hospital and our other major sponsors: The Varelas Family from the Good Table, Staples, Polish National Credit Union and C & S Wholesale Grocers. (I wish to acknowledge everyone who so generously contributed and will do so in a separate letter to the editor to keep this letter from becoming Gone with the Wind.)
WOW began serious planning, budgeting and fundraising in February and decided then to move PumpkinFest one week ahead from past years to avoid the Columbus Day weekend. A new board member Jason Polan took the helm of the event, joining me and community volunteer Heather White as co-chairs. How fortunate we were to have these two professional event planners aboard the PumpkinFest hayride.
WOW learns from every past event and so we decided early on that we would add a few new components to make it sparkle even more than in 2019 – strengthening our focus on children and their families. Westfield G & E came on to mount their popular “Touch a Truck” event during PumpkinFest and Roots Learning Center helped reimagine the antique car show of 2018 as “Trunk or Treat Boulevard” with all kinds of decorated vehicles. Happily and thankfully, Lisa Stowe of the G & E and Roots Learning Center and their great staffs came on as excellent community partners.
Susan Dargie, the excellent Director of Curriculum and Instruction of the School Department worked with co-chair Heather White to recreate another fun Scarecrow Trail of Student Art. Creative scarecrows abounded throughout the downtown that were assembled by Heather’s crackerjack team, especially an enthusiastic group of Police Department wives and partners. We thank them all.
Cheryl Crowe and Bill Westerlind of ArtWorks of Westfield joined us again to produce a special version of the group’s popular ArtWalk series on the east side of Elm Street and they brought on Susan Buffam of Whip City Wordsmiths to produce an author’s showcase west on the sidewalk of Elm. As with all of our collaborators, they once again came nobly to the fore.
Kellie Brown, Assistant Director of the Boys and Girls Club, Joanne Bigelow of JoJo’s Rustic Remnants and Dawn Whitehill of the Pottery Cellar joined the team as producers of the Pumpkin Carving Tent and the Harvest Market, respectively. At the request of the Police Department both the tent and market were moved from the lawns of Baystate Dental and First United Methodist Church to Park Square and Elm Street. The smooth flow of pumpkin carvers attest to Kelli’s organizational skills and the hard work and generosity of her team of volunteers, while Joanne and Dawn produced a quality show with more than 40 participants.
Heather and Kathi Witalisz of Witalisz & Associates Realty created a magical setting for the PumpkinFest photo booth, where as the witches of Wicked, they posed for hundreds of pictures and directed folks to the Park Square pavilion. There, talented WOW board member Lisa Sunderland-Burns produced and oversaw a wonderful raffle with over 45 great prizes that netted thousands of dollars for next year’s PumpkinFest, slated for October 17, 2020. (Mark your calendars!)
Finally, to complete the site map of PumpkinFest, Kate Deviney, acting director of the Westfield Athenaeum, continued a long-standing collaboration with WOW and brought on children’s librarian Patti Brose and the dedicated Friends of the Athenaeum group to produce some unique happenings at the library: scavenger and treasure hunts, an escape room and Toy, Jewelry and Book Sales.
One last statement: a community is only as good as those who volunteer for it. PumpkinFest proves how lucky we are to live in Westfield. Yeah and Happy 350th!
Bob Plasse WOW Vice President of Programming/ PumpkinFest Co-chair.
My co-chairs Jason Polan, Heather White, President Amber Danahey and the board of Westfield on Weekends (WOW) wish to acknowledge those businesses, organizations and individuals, whose financial support made the magic happen at PumpkinFest this past weekend.
Over the years, it has been surprising to me to realize that some folks think that WOW events like PumpkinFest and the upcoming DecemberFest happenings are paid for by the City with taxpayers’ dollars. That is not the case. Indeed, while we are ever indebted to our government for providing help and in-kind assistance, as a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) WOW must raise the monies that fund all the programs and activities that we produce throughout every year.
Fundraising and grantsmanship occupy much of our time and once again, for PumpkinFest, we witnessed the generosity of area and businesses, organizations and individuals who helped us meet the huge production costs. We can never thank or recognize folks who help make Westfield the liveable community that it is enough. Permit me some acknowledgements.
First, we must thank our premium sponsor, Baystate Health and Baystate Noble Hospital and our other major sponsors: The Varelas Family from the Good Table, Staples, Polish National Credit Union and C & S Wholesale Grocers. They are much appreciated.
For PumpkinFest, we were fortunate to receive grants from the Future Fund of Westfield Bank, Shurtleff Children’s Services, Inc. and the Westfield Cultural Council, a local program of the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
The 780 pumpkins that were distributed free of charge were provided with a major donation from the Varelas Family from the Good Table and other financial support from George’s Jewelers; Roger Butler Insurance Agency, Inc.; Bates Fullum Insurance Agency; Rosewood Home & Gifts and Witalisz & Associates Real Estate. Other Pumpkin Carving donors included Mayor Brian Sullivan; Committee to Elect Jim Adams City Councilor at Large; Ward 1 City Councilor Mary Ann Babinski; Betts Plumbing & Heating Supply; City Councilor at Large Brent Bean; City Councilor at Large John Beltrandi; Greater Westfield Boys and Girls Club; Ward 4 City Councilor Mike Burns; Ward 2 City Councilor Ralph Figy; City Councilor at Large Dave Flaherty; City Councilor at Large Cindy Harris; Committee to Elect Mike McCabe Mayor; Ward 6 City Councilor Bill Onyski; School Committee Member Bo Sullivan; Committee to Elect Richard Sullivan City Councilor at Large; State Senator Don Humason; Committee to Elect Matt Van Heynigen City Councilor at Large; and State Representative John Velis.
The following also supported the Pumpkin Runway: Roger Butler Insurance Agency, Inc.; Bates Fullum Insurance Agency; Committee to Elect Jim Adams City Councilor at Large; Ward 1 City Councilor Mary Ann Babinski; City Councilor at Large John Beltrandi; City Councilor at Large Cindy Harris and Witalisz & Associates Real Estate.
In kind assistance was also received from the Westfield G & E; ATC Sound & Audio; Jerome’s Party Plus; The Kotowitz Family and Shaker Farms Country Club; The Sardinha Family and Dunkin’ Donuts; Six Flags; The Balboni Family and Wishing Well Alpacas; Soxcessful; Walmart of Westfield and the Westfield News.
PumpkinFest 2019 was truly an incredible event, thanks to many hard-working volunteers, whose valuable time, energy and effort is priceless. Last night’s “Letter to the Editor” in the Westfield News detailed several individuals, who were essential in its planning and execution. I refer you there and ask that you read it to learn how a huge production like PumpkinFest is mounted.
Meanwhile, I want you to know that should you wish to help sustain the programs and activities of WOW, including PumpkinFest, DecemberFest, MusicFest and all the courses, workshops and event for adults and children at WOW’s Westfield Creative Arts Center (CAC), you may become a WOW member, give a donation by visiting westfieldonweekends.com or visiting CAC at 105 Elm Street.
Again, many thanks our funders and all those who attended PumpkinFest and see you in December!!!
Bob Plasse WOW Vice President of Programming/ PumpkinFest Co-chair