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Pumpkin tradition 'squashed' for this year

By Briana Buckles
On October 20, 2011

This year, central Vermont will be missing a well-known carved-pumpkin Halloween display put on by Ellie's Farm Stand, according to one of the stand's owners.

This would be the 34th year of the display, according Karen Moynihan, co-owner of Ellie's Farm Stand.

Moynihan and her husband are second-generation owners of their family business, and have been hosting the annual pumpkin display since its start in 1977.

The traditional display of well over a thousand pumpkins was cancelled when Moynihan's husband "unexpectedly found out he had to have his aortic valve replaced," she said.

Numerous members of the community, including Norwich students, have offered to volunteer to keep the display in action this year. However, says Karen Moynihan, it is the talent of her husband, who understands the system, that is needed to hold the event.

"If it's not done right it ruins the whole production, and I can't replace that," said Moynihan. "(My husband) feels horrid, and he feels it's his fault."

The carving process generally takes place over eight days when Moynihan does all the carving and her husband helps organize the placing of the pumpkins.

"The pumpkins aren't just regular faces, they are all intricate and very detailed," said Sarah Copeland, a 20-year-old junior studies in war and peace major from Beaufort, S.C.

Traditionally, the pumpkins, which have been deemed of lesser quality, are not sold, but are used in the display instead.

From the eight to 10 acres of pumpkins grown annually, there are usually more than a thousand rejects ready to be carved. "We just cut out the bad spots," said Moynihan.

This tradition has been become a staple in the local community visited by numerous generations.

"I knew (some customers) as babies and now they've got kids, and they're bringing them here," said Moynihan. She knows that it's the small town and local family customers that keep the shop in business.

Ellie's Farm Stand makes extra attempts to reach out to Norwich students, and be a friend to those who are away from home.

"The lady that works there is really nice, and she always makes you feel welcome," said Unna Lee, a 22-year-old senior construction and engineering management major from San Antonio, Texas.

Moynihan's pumpkins also help bring cheer to students consistently faced with the doldrums of campus life, students say.

"I went during mid-semester break my freshman year," said Sigrid Rafoss, a 20-year-old junior biology major from Heartland, Conn. "There were just hundreds of pumpkins that were just growing everywhere, and they made me very happy."

The Halloween atmosphere around town will not be the same without Moynihan's art on display.

"I was looking forward to it," said Copeland. "It better be there next year!" Her opportunity to see it before graduation is now cut in half.

Many annual visitors are disheartened knowing that the display will not be taking place this year. However, they still strongly support the business, and will visit to purchase other items.

"I'm a little sad," said Lee, "but they always have fresh sweet apple cider, and it's only like $5 a gallon."

Every one of the hundreds of people who came to the pumpkin display every year is enthralled by the number of different designs and skill each one requires to carve. Students said it was difficult to name one pumpkin design as their favorite.

"There were some Disney Princess ones that I liked," said Rafoss, "but there were really like 50 of them that I thought were the coolest."

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