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Harvest Festival vision sharp as ever

Story by James Hill, photos by James Hill and Gabriel McGovern

Great Pumpkin

Free Pumpkins

In 2001, former Rock Creek Campus President Bill Christopher wanted a signature community event at his campus. He got it and then some with the establishment of the Rock Creek Harvest Festival.

This year, under the guidance of Rock Creek President Katherine Persson and her dedicated staff, the seventh annual Harvest Festival will be held just in time for Halloween. It will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27, on the Rock Creek Campus. The suggested donation is $5 per family, which includes, as long as the supply lasts, a free pumpkin from the Rock Creek Campus pumpkin patch. In addition, visitors gain free admission to the Washington County Historical Society Museum.

The festival is popular with younger folks and attracts more than 1,000 people every year.

“This is great for younger people and students with children,” said Mandy Ellertson, student leadership coordinator at the campus and an organizer of the Harvest Festival. “Or for people who have younger family members. It’s a great opportunity for students and staff to bring family on campus. We can’t forget how important it is to share with one another and look at what we have to offer.”

Along with the popular pumpkin patch, the festival will include hay rides, a petting zoo featuring the animals of the PCC Rock Creek farm, face painting, musical entertainment, and participants will have the opportunity to have their picture taken with their pumpkin. There also will be sustainability tours, featuring an earthen oven demonstration and a worm composting workshop.

corn stalksIt all started seven years ago when Christopher said he wanted a pumpkin patch. The patch would be the focus of a new event leading up to Halloween. Not only would the local community get a chance at a free pumpkin and some fun activities, but would be introduced to all of PCC’s services.

“He came to us to see if we could take that on,” said Ellertson. “We worked with Washington County, local farmers and PCC Public Affairs and then decided to do it. Loretta Dike and I are key people in keeping the event happening and alive after Bill left.”

In its humble beginning, the Harvest Festival incorporated activities with the Washington County Historical Museum, Rock Creek Farm, and Landscape Technology program; partnerships that continue today.

“It’s a true collaboration,” Ellertson said. “There are a variety of people involved. And now the child care center wants to be involved as well as the sustainability folks. We’re picking up more and more partners, which will make this an exciting year.”

Every year the festival gets better at staying in tune with its surrounding neighborhood. For example, more student leaders are getting involved this year to attract Washington County’s Latino community.

“It just has gotten bigger and bigger each year,” Ellertson said. “It’s great for students and is a favorite of the community. I overheard something where a student parent brought their son to the festival and he said we are the best school in the world. That connection is really important for students who have younger kids.”

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