Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Greatest Free Show on Earth

By Ruth A. Ringelstetter

We visited Circleville, Ohio, on a rainy, late April morning of 2013. I had a list of a few things around town that we wanted to photograph, including a couple of murals. I didn’t really have much history of the town at that time.

We were downtown shortly after dawn. Any hope we have of capturing street scenes has to happen at that early hour before the town folk begin their day.

We don’t find advertising for old five and dime stores very often, but we were lucky enough to find this ghost sign for one on an old brick building downtown.

Towering over the town is their water tower that was built in 1976 and repainted in 1997 to resemble a pumpkin. A stem was added to make it look a little more pumpkin-like.

The Circleville Pumpkin Show dates back to the fall of 1903 when George Haswell invited local farmers to display their fall harvest on the streets of Circleville. The first year, it was a very small display.

The next year, the displays grew. Because of the predominance of pumpkins, the term “The Pumpkin Show“ was coined, and by 1905, the first ride appeared. Today there are over 30 rides and around 300 vendors.

In the middle of downtown, muralist Eric Henn created a 100th anniversary mural. The anniversary was celebrated in 2006 because the show had been postponed for 1 year during World War I and 2 years during World War II.

The mural is so life-like, you feel like you could step right into the scene. There are horses pulling wagonloads of pumpkins and displays of pumpkins down the street.

Eric painted a second mural in town for the bicentennial in 2010. The mural features the first Pickaway County courthouse.

For years, the unofficial mascot of “The Pumpkin Show” has been the roller-skating, costumed Pumpkin Man. He makes his way around town during the festival.

The Pumpkin Show is called The Greatest Free Show on Earth because there is no entrance fee. Of course you’ll pay for rides and the various foods you want to try, but there’s no fee to wander around the 8-block festival. You can also watch any or all of the seven parades during the festival.

We may never be in Circleville during the festival which is held beginning on the third Wednesday of every October and lasts until Saturday, but if you’re looking for a fall trip, keep Circleville, Ohio in mind.

Happy Halloween and Happy Shunpiking!


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  1. Thanks for the lesson about Circleville, OH. 'Never heard of that festival before. Happy Halloween, Happy All Saints and All Souls Days, too!

  2. Well that sounds like a fun thing to do in the fall! Thanks for the story and photos!

  3. Thanks Jean/John and Phyllis/Vern. The murals alone are amazing! It looks like you could just walk through the arch into the scene. Hard to believe it's the side of a building!