November 1st is fast approaching and we want to make sure your Pumpkin Parade really shines. This made-in-Toronto phenomenon is now 13 years strong (nod to awesome Friends of Sorauren Park). Permit applications are due to the City of Toronto, Parks Forestry and Recreation on Oct 13, and permits are free for not-for-profit groups or community groups (insurance fees may apply.)

We’ve got the inside track from community park groups who’ve have been around the pumpkin patch a few times to help guide you in planning your upcoming Pumpkin Parade. 

What time should pumpkin drop off begin?

Community members tend to start dropping off jack-o-lanterns earlier than you might expect. For some, the after-school period is just the most convenient time to get it done. Our park group experts advise that volunteers be on-site starting at 3:30 to help early-birds get the route started and to avoid anyone from interfering with pumpkins before the parade. In short, be sure to let people know what time to begin their drop-off, and then plan to arrive to greet early-birds.

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The Jack-o-Lanterns that started it all at Sourauren Park’s Pumpkin Parade

What time does the pumpkin parade start and end?

On Nov 1, the sun sets at around 6:00 pm so don’t start before then. You don’t need to advertise an end time for the parade, but you do need a plan to get the pumpkins into the compost bins the City provides for all Pumpkin Parades.  Will you clean up the park the night of the Parade or the next morning? Either way, you’ll need lots of volunteers with wheelbarrows and wagons to efficiently move the pumpkins from the ground to the compost bin and to remove all of the candles from the jack-o-lanterns. Make sure to let people know what to bring and what time to gather.  Having enough volunteers is key since you’ll need to manage park clean up.

BONUS IDEA: Make your pumpkin clean-up fun by splitting your clean-up crew into teams and setting up a pumpkin toss competition. You can allot points for presentation, follow-through, and speed. The prize doesn’t have to be more than bragging rights.

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Withrow Park Pumpkin Parade

What do we need to have on-hand?

The beauty of Pumpkin Parades is their simplicity. Don’t feel like you need to add-on bells and whistles to jazz up your Parade. But,  you do need a little light to make the magic happen. Even if people are asked to bring their own candles (be sure to mention if you want this in your promotions), it’s wise to have lots of extra tea lights and barbeque lighters on hand. Assign volunteers to walk around with barbeque lighters to keep jack-o-lanterns shining all night long. You can invite local businesses like coffee shops to stay open later to sell cider, coffee, and hot chocolate. That way, you can avoid permitting issues around food in the park. 

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Oakridge Park Pumpkin Parade

How do we plan the best path?

Many parks have a pathway that is the obvious choice for the parade. If your park isn’t one of these, take a walk through the park and consider the most accessible way to display the jack-o-lanterns. Remember, some people want to get up close for photos, so don’t place them out of reach. Consider the easiest path for strollers and wheelchairs and don’t position the path on a hill that might be difficult for some people to travel along. Alison, from Mimico By the Lake BIA suggests clustering school pumpkins together to make it easy for younger children to find and show off their creations. 

Who knows?

Once you’ve made some decisions, don’t forget to spread the word. Some insider tips on advertising include providing classroom-sized bundles of pre copied flyers for schools to hand out (talk to parent council or the school Principal first) and having one or two families distribute small flyers in trick-or-treat bags. Printing costs can be offset if you have a good relationship with a local business and provide some sponsor recognition for the extra support. Also, be sure to add Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Park People as co-hosts on your Facebook event to help get the word out beyond your own networks. Both PFR and Park People will help circulate news about your Parade. 

 

 

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