The Virginia Pumpkin Festival shares some history with Halloween – both are recent introductions. While Halloween grew out of the Celtic Samhain tradition, the County Cavan feast in honour of the pumpkin grew out of imported Halloween imagery. And has been an immediate success.
When is the Virginia Pumpkin Festival Held?
Easy – always on the October Bank Holiday Weekend, that is the weekend just before the last Monday in October (which is a public holiday, thus a three-day-weekend just before or sometimes on Halloween).
Where is the Virginia Pumpkin Festival Held?
As the name says ... in Virginia. That would be the smallish town of Virginia in County Cavan, not the state.
Finding the exact location within Virginia is not a problem – the whole town will be blocked to vehicle traffic, so you can just head there and then follow the signs for the parking lots. This also means traffic chaos during the Virginia Pumpkin Festival, as the busy N3 between Kells and Cavan will be closed and all traffic diverted via backroads.
What Can You Expect at the Virginia Pumpkin Festival?
As the name says ... pumpkins. And as the posters will lead you to believe all sorts of Halloween-related shenanigans as well. After all, this is the time of mass pumpkincide in the name of the lantern. But in Virginia, the pumpkin strikes back ...
One of the highlights of the Virginia Pumpkin Festival is the pumpkin weigh-in, held right in the middle of town with the support of heavy machinery. Pumpkins of a size that two or three kids could hide in are brought in by local and not-so-local growers. International entries are coming in from Europe and overseas and while the prize money seems small, it is all about the honour. Which is reflected in weight – a few hundred pounds of pumpkin on a pallet is quite a sight to behold.
Other pumpkin-related activities include the ever-popular pumpkin carving and letting a pumpkin fall from a great height. Stand well back unless you don't mind being covered in orange goo and pumpkin seeds.
Is it Just Pumpkins?
No, there is a funfair and loads of fun activities all over town will keep you occupied for a few hours. Some have a definite Halloween flavour added ... such as skeletons doing a bit of Irish dancing (“Riverdance” will never be the same again ...) and kids running around in costumes.
Street theatre, entertainers, concerts (featuring well-known Irish acts such as the Waterboys or Imelda May) and even a “Farmer's Dance” (featuring “Irish & Country”, so bring you Stetson and wellies) can be experienced. And one of the highlights is the darkness ... at some point during the proceedings the street lighting is switched off and you might soak in the eerie atmosphere of a late October evening by pumpkin-light.
Not to be missed are the food stalls ... from local delicacies via German “bratwurst” to nuts and sweets straight from Iran you'll be tempted beyond any reasonable calorie count. Bring some spending money and appetite.
Who Should Visit the Virginia Pumpkin Festival?
Well, this is all-in-all quite wholesome family entertainment, so make it a day out with the whole family (but keep track of your kids and don't let them get too spooked by some of the theatre acts). It might also get a little bit rowdier later in the evening (the pubs are open and doing roaring business, after all).
The Nitty-Gritty of the Virginia Pumpkin Festival
This is not a free festival – you will have to pay a tenner (€ 10, concessions available) to enter Virginia. Considering the entertainment on offer this is a decent price, but only if you plan to spend some hours. Some scheduled events (like the concerts) will cost extra, as will rides in the funfair. Budget for that, especially with kids. Food and drink can be had at normal prices, the local takeaways and restaurants do not hike their prices. Alternatively bring your own.
Also: Bring clothing to fit the occasion and the Irish weather, most events are open air (rain jackets and caps are far more sensible than umbrellas) and even on a sunny day the evening can become freezing cold very fast indeed – thick socks anyone?
If you need more information on the Virginia Pumpkin Festival – www.virginia.ie