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On Centre: Penn State | Arboretum falls into season with pumpkin festival

It is barely October but Penn State is already getting in touch with its autumnal side.

No, not with football and tailgating. This rite of fall is less blue and white and more orange. A lot more orange.

Starting on Sunday, the Penn State Arboretum will be getting more pumpkiny than a Starbucks latte as the H.O. Smith Botanic Gardens at Bigler Road and Park Avenue host the fourth annual Pumpkin Festival. The event runs through Oct. 11.

The university will give out 1,000 pumpkins to people who show up for the pumpkin-carving contest, starting at 1 p.m. Sunday. Think you have a better pumpkin for the design you have in mind? Feel free to bring your own. Once the free pumpkins run out, they are gone.

Carve up your seedy squash, then bring it back to register for the contest between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Thursday or 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Friday in a tent by the arboretum parking lot.

Worried that a second-grader might upstage your carving skills or that you might have to compete against a sculptor from the College of Arts and Architecture? It’s OK. There are categories for everyone: ages 2-4, ages 5-7, ages 8-10, ages 11-13, ages 14-17, Penn State student and adult.

Shoot for ribbons in categories like best Penn State theme, best arboretum theme, best face and just plain best. Winners will be chosen by a mix of campus and community leaders.

And then things get glowing.

The jack-o’-lanterns will be lighted and shown off on he lawn of the gardens from 6 to 9 p.m. Oct. 10-11, giving everyone a chance to see the gruesome (or gorgeous) gourds the way they were meant to be seen.

The community will also be welcome into the gardens Oct. 11 to take in autumn offerings including cornstalks, fruit and more. Family activities will be in the new Childhood’s Gate children’s garden, on the event lawn and at other locations in the gardens from 4 p.m. until dusk.

The best part? Penn State is providing all this fall fun for free.

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