By Jeanne Sager
GRAHAMSVILLE October 8, 2002 Joann Gallagher is sure shes found the greatest place on Earth.
The director of the Daniel Pierce Library was prepared to take a hit with this years Great Pumpkin Party if the weather turned sour, but instead the day dawned sunny and the fairgrounds in Grahamsville were brimming with people.
There were youngsters competing in the ninth annual spelling bee, parents picking out brightly colored gourds to decorate their homes for Halloween and community members wandering the craft booths to pick up an early Christmas purchase.
And Gallagher is absolutely sure you couldnt duplicate Saturdays scene anywhere else.
Grahamsville boasts one of the largest libraries in the county, and the oldest public lending facility to boot. Now, with the board of directors planning a building project that could quadruple the size of the facility, money is needed more than ever.
For 17 years, the library has turned to the community to help them out. And every year, Gallagher noted, people have been there.
It takes 500 volunteers and six months of planning for the Giant Pumpkin Party to open smoothly each October. It takes inmates from the countys correctional facility eight days to clean the fairgrounds five to ready the site for the party and three to take everything down.
And Gallagher knows every single face thats involved in the process from the children at the local Tri-Valley Central School who were manning some of the activity booths at the party to the volunteers from nearly every local service organization who sold tickets or wandered the grounds to see that everything was in tiptop shape.
This is the best community in the whole world, Gallagher said. You couldnt duplicate this anywhere else.
But Grahamsville has repeated the scene for 17 years starting with a costume parade for the children of the area to show off their Halloween outfits and continuing throughout the day with pumpkin decorating for the kids, a book sale and booths filled with vendors selling food and crafts.
So why pumpkins?
I dont know really, Gallagher said. The most important thing for us is to create a fun-filled day for the children of the community and from across the county.
The children are just bursting, she added. They look forward to this day.
Many families filled the fairgrounds to give their children something to do for the day some coming from as far as Montclair, N.J., or as near as Claryville.
Kitty Dettori of Rosendale has been trying to make it to the pumpkin party for four years.
And Saturdays event didnt disappoint, she said.
I love the children, she noted. I love the music, the atmosphere.
Were just sorry we missed the parade this morning, added husband Fred.
Jill Parks of White Sulphur Springs was another first-timer at the fair this year, strolling 15-month-old Tanner across the grounds to pick out a pumpkin and take part in the activities.
I thought it would be a great opportunity for my son to start out the Halloween season, she explained.
And besides, she added, as a librarian at the Livingston Manor Central School, the cause was near and dear to her heart.
The event also drew a lot of repeat visitors, many who have been coming for years to participate and lend a hand to the library.
Andrew Schauer of Roscoe flew home from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. for the weekend. He wouldnt miss the pumpkin party.
After all, the 20-year-old has been growing mammoth gourds since 1995 to enter in the partys big pumpkin contest.
And for the seventh year in a row, Schauer walked away with the top prize for his 783-pound fruit.
Its a lot of hard work, Schauer said. But it takes watering, good seed.
I love to just watch them grow, and to come here to have people look at the pumpkin and see the amazement on their faces.
Children spent the day climbing atop Schauers enormous gourd and guessing its weight.