The Downs Community Garden and Osborne County SHINE organizations co-hosted their third annual Pumpkin Party at the garden on Saturday. More than 250 people enjoyed the beautiful weather and a few hours of quality time as families.

“We’re beyond pleased with the turnout this year,” said Robin Bales, leader of SHINE and chair of the planning committee. “Families need activities like this and we’re happy that we can continue to partner with the Downs Community Garden for this one.”

The groups planned activities for every corner of the garden including scavenger hunts, pumpkin decorating, crafts, a costume and photo prop area, yard and water games, storytime, snacks and even had a rabbit for kids to pet.

The planning committee was also pleased with the number of volunteers who showed up to support the event.

“More than 40 people came just to give their time and talents as volunteers,” Bales said. “We can’t thank them enough for spending their day carrying tables and chairs, setting up activity stations, donating snacks, cleaning pumpkins, guiding and leading activities and tearing it all down when the party was over.”

Local groups like Lakeside FFA and GEMS brought volunteers and several volunteers returned from previous years. The garden leadership group and several gardeners volunteered their time to the day.

Representatives from the garden are thrilled to have been part of the successful event.

“One of the initial ideas behind starting the community garden was to give people another place to enjoy as families,” said Beth Christians, the garden representative on the event planning committee. “We love sharing this space with others and bringing families together for a day of fun.”

The free event was sponsored by a grant from Sarver Charitable Trust. Participation more than doubled in size from the previous year’s attendance of 125.

“The gift from Sarver Charitable Trust allows us to bring free, family-friendly events to our communities,” said Bales. “We hope to keep growing in participation and we couldn’t do it without their support.”

In addition to grant funding, several pumpkins were auctioned off as a fundraiser for next year’s event.

The party comes at a great time of year for the Downs Community Garden.

“Most gardeners have harvested everything from their plots are already planning for the next year,” Christians said. “The pumpkin party gives us another excuse to clean up our spaces and get together before our final event.”

The garden will host a Harvest Soup Night that will serve as their wrap up for the year. The soup supper is open to the public as another opportunity to learn about what has taken place at the garden the previous season. It is also an opportunity to look at the spaces available and sign up for a plot. The date and time of the Harvest Soup Night are still in the works and will be announced on the Downs Community Garden Facebook page.

SHINE also typically ends the year with a couple of winter and Christmas themed events for families. To read more about Osborne County SHINE and future events, visit their Facebook page.