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Pumpkins at center of Saturday’s community events in Craig

If you go

What: Pumpkin giveaway

When: 8 a.m. Saturday

Where: Homemaker Furnishings, 468 Ranney St., Craig;

Rio Blanco County Courthouse, 555 Main St., Meeker; and

Little Snake River Valley School, 333 N. Main St., Baggs, Wyo.

If you go

What: Second annual Pumpkin Patch

Where: Wyman Museum, 94350 U.S. Highway 40

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

— The event will include hay rides, pumpkin decorating, scarecrow decorating, pumpkin pie contest, find the needle in the hay maze, silent auction and more.

Though festive this time of year, Marvin "Red" Cortner recognizes that pumpkins aren't exactly practical.

"Pumpkins are a real strange thing," said Cortner, owner of Homemaker Furnishings in Craig. "Nobody eats them. They're toys."

Nonetheless, pumpkins will be at the center of community happenings Saturday in Craig.

First, at 8 a.m., Red and Linda Cortner will give away an estimated 1,200 pumpkins at three area locations — Craig, Meeker and Baggs, Wyo. And, at 10 a.m., the Wyman Museum will host its second annual Pumpkin Patch fundraiser event.

The Cortners have been giving free pumpkins to children for five years. Red said there's a simple explanation for the generosity.

"Every kid deserves a pumpkin," he said.

The Cortner pumpkin giveaway is scheduled to take place at Homemaker Furnishings, 468 Ranney St., in Craig; the Rio Blanco County Courthouse, 555 Main St., in Meeker; and the Little Snake River Valley School, 333 N. Main St., in Baggs, Wyo.

Red estimated he and his wife will give away 800 pumpkins in Craig, 300 in Meeker and 100 in Baggs this year. The retail cost of the pumpkins is "about $3,600," he said.

Although there are many pumpkins to claim, Red suggested kids arrive early in the day.

"Last year, we were completely out by noon," he said.

Red said the purpose of the yearly giveaway is about "kids having a smile on their face."

"It's all about the kids," Red said. "It (isn't) about the advertising. It … (isn't) a money maker."

Red said Halloween deserves more credit as a holiday.

"Halloween is a fun time," he said. "It doesn't cost a lot of money to have fun on Halloween. It's not like Christmas, where you break your credit card in half when you try to do something."

After children and their parents retrieve a pumpkin from the Cortners, they have the option of turning their attention to Wyman Museum.

Museum office manager Nicky Boulger said last year's Pumpkin Patch event was a big hit.

"I bet the average family spent about three hours out here, minimum," Boulger said.

This year's event will feature a pumpkin painting booth, a scarecrow decorating booth, hay rides and a needle in the hay maze. There will also be a silent auction where decorated pumpkins can be purchased.

Boulger said she has added something new to this year's event.

"It's going to be our first pumpkin pie contest," she said. "So if you think you make a good pumpkin pie, bring it out."

Wyman Museum owner Lou Wyman said the event is a fundraiser for the museum's Winter Carnival.

"It takes us all year to make enough money to do our Winter Festival in February," Wyman said. "It takes about $15,000 to buy the ice and to rent a groomer and all that."

Despite being a fundraiser, Boulger said the Pumpkin Patch is free to visitors.

"The only thing you have to pay for is the pumpkins, if you decide to purchase one," she said. "We're not going to force you."

The pumpkins, Boulger said, vary in price. Twenty- to 30-pound pumpkins sell for $10, or $15 for two. Smaller than 20-pound pumpkins sell for $7.

"Itty-bitty, teenie-weenie (pumpkins) are a buck," Boulger said.

She said she's not concerned that pumpkins will be given away for free on the same day she's trying to raise money through pumpkin sales.

"I think it's great that Red Cortner does that," Boulger said. "Last year, he did it on the same day that we did this and it didn't seem to effect us.

"In fact, some people went there and got a pumpkin from (Red), and then came back out here and enjoyed the festivities, as well."