It’s difficult for many to envision what Harvest Homecoming looked like in 1967. There were just a handful of tables set up along Pearl Street and the event looked more like a big yard sale than a festival.
The Pumpkin Festival, as it was known then, was the brainchild of the New Albany Chamber of Commerce. The founding members included Cora Jacobs, Henry Ramsier, Paul Lipps, Charles Walte, Ruth Cole, Bud Ettel and Thelma Bertrand.
That group would be both surprised and thrilled at the festival’s growth in the years since. Other than the location, the festival today resembles little of its roots. It just keeps growing in popularity as more organizations and non-profits join the four days of booths.
Those little tables on Pearl Street have been replaced by nearly 300 booths lining Pearl, Bank and Market streets. That fall event in 1967 has become the third-largest festival in the state. Last year more than 700,000 visitors converged on the downtown during the four booth days, which this year began yesterday.
And with good weather in the forecast for this weekend, that number could grow. Maybe this is the year it tops 1 million visitors.
Harvest Homecoming is truly a local treasure. It’s all about community — from the parade to other unique events and the booths, themselves. We come together to celebrate what is good and great about New Albany, Floyd County and Southern Indiana. This community embraced the festival early on and has rallied behind it like no other, playing a role in its sustained success.
Thousands of people walk the streets in search of their favorite treat, whether that might be the chicken and dumplings or Masonic doughnuts. But more than the food, crafts and music, people converge on the downtown to meet up with old friends and to just soak up the sounds and smells of Harvest Homecoming.
There is truly something for everybody this weekend in downtown New Albany. There will be music on the riverfront tonight and tomorrow, and several acts will perform for free on the stage at the MainSource parking lot. Kids can take part in the festival, too; children’s activities tomorrow include the Big Wheel race, baby crawl and tractor pull.
None of these events would be possible without the Harvest Homecoming committee members and other volunteers who give of their time to make sure the festival doesn’t miss a beat. None of the committee members is paid, and most have other jobs and families. But they are dedicated to making sure Harvest Homecoming will continue for another 50 years.
So happy golden anniversary, Harvest Homecoming. It’s been a great 50 years of growth for a festival more popular than ever.