Visit the Pumpkin Capital of the World for Morton Pumpkin Festival, all on 1 tank of gas

Friday, September 17, 2021
MORTON, Ill. (WLS) -- As we head into fall, Roz is taking us on a One Tank Trip to Morton, Illinois for their annual Pumpkin Festival!

This festival is expected to bring in over 75,000 people! It's a great way to welcome fall and have some outdoor family fun - while the weather is still really nice - at the Pumpkin Capital of the World!

It's pumpkin everything for as far as the eye can see at the 55th annual Morton Pumpkin Festival, which started as a way to celebrate the fall harvest.

"Many years ago, Nestle, Libby's plant, located here in Morton, producing 85% of the world's canned pumpkin," said Leigh Ann Brown, executive director, Morton Chamber of Commerce.

As a result, Governor Jim Thompson declared the town of Morton the Pumpkin Capital of the World in 1978! The Pumpkin Festival includes more than 30 events and activities.

"We have a pie eating contest, we have a pumpkin decorating competition, window decorating competition, and of course our pumpkin pancake breakfast that we host Saturday morning," Brown said. "We have over 22 griddles, and so we cook up a lot of pancakes!"

The festival grounds include a carnival, and lots of pumpkin-themed carnival foods - and if you have safety concerns, they offer a pumpkin drive-thru! Order your festival food online, grab your goodies, and go! There's live entertainment each day and a parade Saturday morning.

But back to the pumpkins - and a pumpkin weigh-off. They said the largest they've had was over 1,000 pounds! Where else can you see a boat race in a 500-pound hollowed-out pumpkin?!

Minutes from the festival, you can visit the place that supplies the pies!

"This year is the most pies that we'll produce for the pumpkin festival yet, which is 1,100," said Amanda Pyle, CEO and owner of Cookery, Inc. "We actually use the standard Libby's pie recipe, because all of our pumpkin is donated locally from Libby's."

You can't leave Morton without visiting Ackerman Farm, owned by the same family for over 100 years!

"We have over 160 varieties of pumpkins, we get our seed from all over the world," said John Ackerman, owner of Ackerman Family Farms. "A lot of these pumpkins are old heirlooms, ones grown all over the world for centuries for food, but a lot of them are so pretty, a lot of people decorate with them so often.

Every heard of Cushaw Squash? How about a Knucklehead Pumpkin, Mellow Yellow, or Galeux d' Eysines - Peanut Pumpkin? Yeah, me neither!

"This is a modern one, it's called One Too Many," Ackerman explained. "Because the breeders of this pumpkin decided that's what your eyeball looks like after you've had one too many!

You can pick your own pumpkins, visit the farm's animals, including the cutest baby goat, a baby alpaca and a mustang from the wild horse adoption program - and check out the family-friendly corn maze!

This one tank trip is a breath of fresh air, a chance to get out of the city and enjoy the country life for a day!

The Pumpkin Festival is already underway - it continues through Saturday evening, and it makes for a perfect day trip!
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