Vancouver Pumpkin Parades Gaining Momentum

October 21, 2019

Jodi Lastman

While Pumpkin Parades have become an annual tradition in Toronto, Park People is starting to build momentum for parades in cities like Vancouver. Today the nights surrounding Halloween are heavily dominated by the colourful lights and loud cracks of fireworks. We aim to add Pumpkin Parades to the mix.

Park People’s Project Coordinator in Vancouver, Mash, is working hard to make Pumpkin Parade happen every November 1st. She hosted her first Parade last year, and is working hard to make this year’s even bigger. 

“Before joining the Park People,” Mash admits, “I had I never heard of a Pumpkin Parades. But, now that I’ve hosted one in the park, I’m completely infatuated with the idea and am determined to help them spread.” 

 

Learning from Vancouver’s First-Ever Pumpkin Parade 

Last year, Mash hosted Vancouver’s  first-ever Pumpkin Parade in in Nelson Park in Vancouver’s West End. While Mash promoted the event widely in the local neighbourhood, she was pleasantly surprised by how many people visited the Parades on their walk home from work, then returning with carved pumpkins in hand.

“We even had people who saw the lights from their apartments and decided to come down and check out the festivities,” she said.

The lesson for Mash was if it’s your first year hosting a pumpkin parade in your city, try to do it in a highly visible, well-trafficked park. That way, people will see the pumpkins and wander over to find out what’s going on. Picking a high visibility spot will not only attract people to the event, but will help Pumpkin Parades spread across the city.

Build Momentum by Connecting with Community Partners

Now in year two, Mash recognizes that putting on a community event all by yourself can be pretty overwhelming. This year she’s partnering with an organization called Young Ideas to help attract young people, who need parks most.

Young Ideas is a group of 20 to 39 year old volunteers from Gordon Neighbourhood House who organize events, activities, and workshops that build social capital for young adults in the West End of Vancouver. It turns out  48% of the community’s residents fall into this demographic and that this is a group that struggles to find connection in community. The Vancouver Foundation found that 41% of young adults in Metro Vancouver find it difficult to make friends. Young Ideas was created specifically to help address the issue of social isolation among young adults.

Mash is confident that working with this community group will ensure that people are available to volunteer at the event, and that young adults connect among the backdrop of flickering pumpkins. 

 

Creatively Managing Pumpkin Disposal

Another challenge Mash faced in year one was figuring out what to do with all of the Jack-o-Lanterns after the Pumpkin Parade. In Toronto, Park People has worked with the city to coordinate the composting of pumpkins at the end of the event. In other words, an added benefit of the Parades is that people don’t have to worry about disposing of their pumpkins after Halloween. That helps get people out to the events.

Because Vancouver doesn’t yet have an agreement with the city , Mash wanted to find a creative way to get the pumpkins into the compost bin at the end of the night. Renting a bin from the city was far too expensive. Also, because this  was her very first parade, it was difficult for Mash to predict how many pumpkins to expect. 

Last year, Mash’s clever solution was to  hire someone with Craigslist who drove the pumpkins to the composting station for a low cost.

This year she has a better and much more adorable plan. 

At last month’s Climate Strike Mash meta fellow marcher who volunteers with a creative zero-waste initiative. Betsey Robertson came up with an idea to collect jack-o-lanterns and deliver them to local farms for pigs and goats to eat. Turns out pumpkins are both a delicious treat and their seeds act as a natural parasite control for pigs. Last year, through her initiative, 400 pumpkins were diverted from the compost or landfill and used to feed animals at 5 different sanctuaries and farms in Langley and Mission.

Mash embraced this new partnership to make good use of the pumpkins. It not only  gets more people involved in their local food system, but it supports food waste and even enhances animal welfare.

Be sure to head out to this year’s Vancouver Pumpkin Parade at Nelson Park. Here are all the details.

The pumpkin parade has also received support from the West End BIA, Whole Foods, and the Vancouver Foundation through a Small Neighbourhood Grant.

 

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