Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Inspired by fall and focused on earning the rank of Eagle Scout, Slaty Fork teen Alan Gibson has organized and planned the first, hopefully annual, Pumpkinpalooza.

The event, which will take place at Marlinton Middle School Friday, September 28, will include fall-related activities, games and concessions from local organizations. It will also act as a prequel to the annual Autumn Harvest Festival and RoadKill Cook-off on Saturday, September 29.

“The big main attraction is going to be the corn maze which is going to be two-and-a-half acres,” Gibson said. “We’re going to have vendors from local clubs and we’re going to have contests and games.”

While planning the event, Gibson met with several local organizations, including the MMS PTO, whose members are excited and hope it will become an annual event.

“The PTO loves it,” he said. “The principal, Dustin Lambert, has been very supportive. [Extension Agent] Greg Hamons, horticulture club leader Margaret Worth and volunteer Jean Srodes are all helping with it and are excited. Karisa Coleman with Families Leading Change – she’s been a huge help. She’s like our sponsor. It’s found an audience.”

When Gibson was brainstorming ideas for the community enrichment portion of his Eagle Scout project, he drew inspiration from another school in the county – Green Bank Elementary-Middle School.

“I wanted it to benefit the middle school somehow because I used to go there,” Gibson said. “I went to Green Bank for awhile and they had [the Autumn Harvest Day], so I thought Marlinton could use one. I just kind of felt like – I don’t know where I got the idea for a Pumpkinpalooza exactly – but I thought having a corn maze up there would be really cool.”

The corn maze has been planted, with the help of the horticulture club at MMS and Gibson has sent pumpkin seeds home with Marlinton Elementary School and MMS students to make sure there are plenty of pumpkins for the day’s activities.

Gibson’s mom, Gayle Boyette, who is helping with the planning process, said she and Gibson attended a Families Leading Change conference and enjoyed learning about agriculture-themed activities, which led to the creation of Pumpkinpalooza.

“One of the professor’s from WVU [West Virginia University] was growing these giant pumpkins – the kind that weigh three hundred, four hundred pounds – and was going to do a river race where people sat in the pumpkins and floated down the river,” Boyette said. “I guess the idea kind of evolved from hearing about other agricultural endeavors.”

Because he hopes the event will become an annual fundraiser for the school, Gibson is creating a guide for the PTO to use in the future.

“We’re making a Project Implementation Guide, or PIG, for the PTO so they can keep doing this if they wish for the years to come,” he said. “I’m just kind of starting it up and making the blueprints.”

“The good news is – when he met with the PTO – he explained all of this to them that his goal was to set it up and they could do what they wanted to with it and they’re actually thinking of keeping it going and decorating it for Halloween, and having a haunted corn maze,” Boyette added.

Once the event is over, the agricultural learning will continue for students in the horticulture club because when the corn maze is taken down, the acreage will be replanted with a cover crop before the new round of corn is planted for the next year.

While plans are still in motion, the event will include the corn maze, concessions, a dunking booth, pumpkin decorating competition and much more.

As for achieveing the rank of Eagle Scout – that will take a little more than just a successful event.
“I’ve still got a little bit of a ways to go for that,” Gibson said. “It’s a really big endeavor I’m taking on – not just for the project – but the Eagle itself. It’s taken a lot of time building up to this. I still have a couple merit badges I need to earn. I have to do a fifty mile bike ride in a day. I have to be in the troop for so many months – I think a year. I need to show that I am worthy of earning the Eagle Scout – not just to my troop master – but also to my fellow scouts. Once I’ve done all of that, we will have a board review and if I pass, I will become an Eagle Scout.”

While he prepares for the other parts of the Eagle Scout application, Gibson is staying focused and waiting for September.

“We’re starting to put some things into action,” he said. “Now we’re just waiting for September.”