Hush would fall over the crowd as the sound of plane engines drew near over the tree line. Everyone looked up into the harsh glare of the sunlight hoping to see a pumpkin plummet from the side of an aircraft flying high above. The din of the crowd would return before the chunks of the fallen — and exploded — gourd had settled in the tall grass.
Hundreds gathered Saturday for the Fifth Annual Pumpkin Drop hosted by Kenai Aviation. The festivities were split between two venues.
At the Kenai Municipal Airport’s Operations Building down North Willow Street, a variety of aircraft were arranged for viewing. Inside, the chili and cornbread cook-off filled a row of tables, pots of food awaiting judges and the public. A food drive was also held to benefit the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, which donated the pumpkins.
Planes would take off from the operations building, pumpkins on board, and head south to the Kenai Airpark down Kalifornsky Beach Road. There, a bonfire was lit, s’mores and hot dogs were available, and a small target constructed of cones waited. More than one hundred people gathered around the fire or at the edge of the viewing area waiting to see each pumpkin fall.
Kenai Aviation President Jacob Caldwell said during the event that they’d seen a “huge turnout” this year, roughly twice what they’d seen the year before. Every year, he said, the pumpkin drop has gotten bigger.
“It’s been fun to watch this grow,” he said. “Everyone’s coming in with smiles.”
Around 40 aircraft flown by local pilots and students were dropping pumpkins on Saturday, Caldwell said — some making multiple passes. By the end of the day around 50 pumpkins had been surrendered to gravity.
The first pumpkins fell before noon, but pilots left in “heats” that were scheduled past 4 p.m. None struck the target perfectly, but according to results published to Facebook, Alan Dean was the closest — leaving an orange mess only 30 feet away.
Caldwell said that the Pumpkin Drop is an annual event that Kenai Aviation puts on for the local community because they’re a part of that community.
“Hopefully it’s something we get to keep doing for a while because everyone seems to really enjoy it,” he said.
For more information about Kenai Aviation, find “Kenai Aviation” on Facebook or visit kenaiaviation.com.