From left, Isabell Pijahn, Clark Douthit and Sawyer Douthit play a round of cornhole during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

From left, Isabell Pijahn, Clark Douthit and Sawyer Douthit play a round of cornhole during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Making autumn days a little brighter

Kenai hosts fifth annual Fall Pumpkin Festival in Old Town

The City of Kenai welcomed autumn Saturday with its fifth annual Fall Pumpkin Festival, which featured decorated pumpkins, themed scarecrows and costumed characters.

Rather than taking place at Millennium Square behind the Uptown Motel, this year’s festivities were split between the Old Town Marketplace and the front lawn of the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center.

At the Marketplace, local food and craft vendors were set up in booths to sell their goods, while kids played classic fall games like cornhole and ring toss. On the Marketplace stage, local musicians including Ben Mattox (AKA BenJammin) performed original songs and seasonally appropriate covers like “Zombie” by the Cranberries.

At one of the booths, the Kenai River’s resident mermaid, AnneMeridia, took photos with kids and handed out stickers and other goodies while raising money for the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward.

“The wonderful ladies around here swing by the river and pick me up every time there’s an event and tell me that there are wonderful kids who would love to see me,” she said. “So I came out to make sure that I can make their day a little brighter.”

At another booth, Katrina Nelson with O’Brien Garden and Trees sold a variety packages of plums and apples, as well as different types of jams made from the fruit grown at the Nikiski orchard.

Meanwhile, Scarecrow Alley was set up down the road from the Marketplace, right in front of the visitor center. Several themed scarecrows were on display, made by local businesses and organizations like Charis Place Assisted Living and the Kenai Police and Fire departments. Carol Bannock with the City of Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Department said the businesses would be taking the scarecrows to display at their storefront.

The main event at Scarecrow Alley was the pumpkin display, which featured about 70 different pumpkins decorated by kids of the community. Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and his wife, Lisa Gabriel, were in charge of judging the best pumpkin from each of three different age categories: 0-3, 4-8 and 9-12.

Gabriel said the competition this year was tough, especially considering there were so many entries.

The winners of the pumpkin contest were announced by Bannock at about 1:30 p.m. on the Marketplace stage, with each winner receiving a swag bag from the Kenai Community Library. Two of the bags were missing when it came time to announce the winners, but the kids who won were told they could go to the library to collect their prize.

The winner of the 4-8 category, Teagan Jorgensen, painted her pumpkin like the Milky Way galaxy, complete with constellations. Her older sister Blakeley turned her pumpkin into a spider using papier-mache legs and googly eyes. Blakeley said they spent about two days decorating their pumpkins “because we had to wait for the spray paint to dry.”

Teagan said this was her first year decorating a pumpkin for the competition, but they enjoy carving pumpkins at home — Blakeley especially likes to eat the pumpkin seeds, and Teagan’s favorite part is scooping out the guts.

The winner of the 0-3 category was Paisley McElwain for her pumpkin decorated to look like Olaf, a character from the Disney movie “Frozen.”

Kayani Whicker was declared the winner of the 9-12 category for her pumpkin that featured the silhouettes of wolves howling at the moon.

Attendees were also encouraged to post their favorite photo of the day to the event’s Facebook page, with the winner getting a chance to be featured in the City of Kenai’s 2021 Calendar.

Adaline Meganaca points at a plane passing overhead during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Adaline Meganaca points at a plane passing overhead during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Attendees of the Fall Pumpkin Festival pose for a photo with Luke the Bear (AKA Lucas Johnson) during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. From left: Liam Gomez, Dexter Couch, Lucas Johnson, Talamarah Couch, DJ Couch, Matthew Leach and Brandon Lee (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Attendees of the Fall Pumpkin Festival pose for a photo with Luke the Bear (AKA Lucas Johnson) during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. From left: Liam Gomez, Dexter Couch, Lucas Johnson, Talamarah Couch, DJ Couch, Matthew Leach and Brandon Lee (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A pumpkin decorated by Blakeley Jorgensen, of Kenai, is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A pumpkin decorated by Blakeley Jorgensen, of Kenai, is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A scarecrow designed by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce is seen here outside the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A scarecrow designed by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce is seen here outside the Kenai Visitor and Cultural Center during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Ashlynn Marie Parrott takes a photo with AnneMeridia, the Kenai River’s resident mermaid, during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Ashlynn Marie Parrott takes a photo with AnneMeridia, the Kenai River’s resident mermaid, during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Teagan Jorgensen, one of the winners of the pumpkin decorating contest, gets a congratulatory elbow bump from Carol Bannock with the City of Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Department after being declared the winner during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Teagan Jorgensen, one of the winners of the pumpkin decorating contest, gets a congratulatory elbow bump from Carol Bannock with the City of Kenai’s Parks and Recreation Department after being declared the winner during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Teagan Jorgensen, one of the winners of the pumpkin decorating contest, shows off her prize-winning, galaxy-themed pumpkin during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Teagan Jorgensen, one of the winners of the pumpkin decorating contest, shows off her prize-winning, galaxy-themed pumpkin during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Blakeley Jorgensen, of Kenai, poses with her pumpkin-turned-spider during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Blakeley Jorgensen, of Kenai, poses with her pumpkin-turned-spider during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Ben Mattox (AKA BenJammin) performs for the crowd during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Ben Mattox (AKA BenJammin) performs for the crowd during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrew Billups and his son, Asher Billups, of Kenai, show off their costumes during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrew Billups and his son, Asher Billups, of Kenai, show off their costumes during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion 
Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the fifth annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai on Saturday.

Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion Some of the pumpkins submitted to the pumpkin decorating contest are seen here during the fifth annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai on Saturday.

A scarecrow designed by Charis House Assisted Living is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A scarecrow designed by Charis House Assisted Living is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion 
Julianna Desiderio, of Kenai, checks out a scarecrow designed by the Kenai Police Department during the fifth annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai on Saturday.

Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion Julianna Desiderio, of Kenai, checks out a scarecrow designed by the Kenai Police Department during the fifth annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai on Saturday.

A scarecrow designed by the Kenai Fire Department is seen suspended from one of the fire engines during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A scarecrow designed by the Kenai Fire Department is seen suspended from one of the fire engines during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A pumpkin designed by Kayani Whicker – which was chosen as the winner of the 8-12 age category for the pumpkin decorating contest – is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

A pumpkin designed by Kayani Whicker – which was chosen as the winner of the 8-12 age category for the pumpkin decorating contest – is seen here during the 5th annual Kenai Fall Pumpkin Festival in Kenai, Alaska on Oct. 10, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)

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