Much like the rest of the events that took place in 2020, the news of the cancellation of the 114th Pumpkin Show came as a bit of a shock. Many have never imagined such a thing happening in their lifetime, though nobody could have anticipated the outcome of events that have taken place in 2020. That said, this isn’t the first time in history that Circleville has had to face a year with no Pumpkin Show. Some may not know that “The Greatest Free Show on Earth” has faced the reality of being canceled before, to the point that the show has only been canceled three times (now four) in its entire 113-year run since it began in 1903. So, what prompted the Circleville Pumpkin Show to be canceled before? Looking back, other years the show ended up not happening were 1918, 1942, 1943, and eventually, in 1944, it was reduced to a Junior Fair. That’s because the world was facing a whole different reality than we are today – the active result of both World War I and World War II.
This year, we are able to better document moments that will soon be history. With the help of technology, smartphones, and social media, we will be able to track what things businesses, nonprofits, and locals did to keep up the magic of the Pumpkin Show.
However, during these other years that Pumpkin Show was canceled – there wasn’t an outlet people could easily access to document the strange truth of there being a year with no Pumpkin Show. Diaries or journals may have held some details but at the end of the day, finding this information on what did happen those other years there was no show took searching through the local libraries files of past issues of local newspapers.
In 1918, there isn’t a lot on what happened to replace the Pumpkin Show, and upon researching there is a perfectly good reason as to why.
Jo Liggett shared in her first book about the history of the Pumpkin Show that the harrowing thought of the war taking place left local merchants and citizens unenthusiastic about the idea of an event geared around fun. Nanisa Osborn, a trustee of the Circleville Pumpkin Show shared a bit of insight on what might have happened during this year when the Pumpkin Show was canceled. She shared that because there was a lot focused on the first World War, which was known at the time as “The Great War” – there was not a sufficient amount of people to help. The focus was solely on the war effort. The announcement of the cancellation of the 15th Pumpkin Show can be found in the September 12, 1918 edition of the Circleville Union Herald. The Pumpkin Show committee opted after meeting together to not have the Pumpkin Show until after the war – according to Jo Liggett’s book. The first World War ended nearly four weeks later, on November 11, 1918.
On October 21, 1942, the Circleville Herald shared that in place of the Pumpkin Show, a three-day show would take place instead. Thursday evening held a band concert and a short parade to start the whole thing off. Bands consisted of Circleville senior band, Ashville, Williamsport, and Walnut School. The show allowed Pickaway County to have its 4-H club, which back then consisted of 300 or more, and its vocational agriculture boys and girls show off their protects. That year, the show was held on East Franklin Street, where livestock was exhibited and other parts of the show took place in front of the Court House on South Court Street. The market animals were sold during an auction on Friday in the Eagles Lodge parking lot.
On October 20, 1943 – it was decided that there would be a Junior Fair in place of the Pumpkin Show – for what would be the third time in history that the event was canceled. The event started Wednesday of that year and would include aspects that were known to be a part of the Pumpkin Show and not so much as part of a Junior Fair. Attendees that year could anticipate both rides (with a count of five total) and concessions, to hopefully help make up for the lack of a Pumpkin Show that year.
Much like the 1942 three-day show, this Junior Fair included judging and exhibiting livestock, a rooster show, exhibits of food, clothing, handicraft, and concerts from both the Circleville school band and Walnut school band on Thursday and Friday. Circleville school band was also on the streets on Wednesday during the show. They opted to have no parades that year and figured that the crowds would be small, though one thing I found interesting was that the show allowed young people in the area to show the work they’ve been doing throughout the year of 1943 to promote the war effort, as shared in an article of the October 20, 1943 edition of the Circleville Herald.
Things look different this year, and it is certainly strange not having a show. That said, there are other things to look forward to. You can still support your local businesses – who are not only carrying souvenirs to highlight the lack of a show this year but are in need of your support. Some nonprofits are still selling food or other items during select times to raise funds that would normally have been raised during the Pumpkin Show itself.
While we may not have the rides, all the Pumpkin Goodies, and the bustling noises of people roaming through the downtown area, we still have the potential of bringing the magic of the Circleville Pumpkin Show to life through the support of our many wonderful local businesses and nonprofits in our community.