By Mason Johnson
Ask anyone from Morton, Illinois and they’ll tell you it’s the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” When a proud Morton citizen offers this tidbit, they sometimes forget to include one piece of information — it’s self-proclaimed.
In an attempt to get some answers, I went to a resource beloved by journalists everywhere: Yahoo Answers. I’ve sworn by Yahoo Answers ever since I was able to use it to diagnose myself as a narcissist.
According to Yahoo Answers member “Curious Cook,” the Pumpkin Capital of the World is “Morton, IL. Home of the pumpkin chucking contest.”
With a rating of four stars, Curious Cook seems pretty trustworthy.
Yet, there are other towns that claim this title, too.
Sure, Google “Pumpkin Capital of the World” and Morton will come up more than any other town.
But you’ll hear mentions of other towns, too. Floydada, Texas, for example, claims to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World.
We can’t have two Pumpkin Capitals of the World, right?
To see if he’d sweat under pressure, I called Village of Morton President Ronald Rainson. My intention was to lay the questions on him hard, there would be no good cop/bad cop — just “really annoying, jerky cop.”
“Is Morton really the Pumpkin Capital of the World?” I asked.
Rainson disarmed my prying with affable laughter and said, “It sounds kind of funny, but we actually are the Pumpkin Capital of the World. We have a canning plant here that cans more than 82-percent of the canned pumpkin in the world. It’s owned by Nestle and this is where they do it all. There are pumpkin farms surrounding this whole area.”
Rainson proceeded to tell me about the Morton Pumpkin Festival, which takes place in September. The festival’s parade draws upwards of 35,000 people. Considering Morton, Illinois is a small town of only about 17,000 people, I have to admit, I’m a little impressed.
He also told me about the Morton Punkin Chuckin’ Contest, where people chuck pumpkins with pneumatic catapults.
“Usually we put an old car out there and [the pumpkin catapults] will blow the doors right off the car,” Rainson explained.
I ask him what message he wants to send to the other towns that try to claim the Pumpkin Capital of the World title.
“I’d have to point out that, statistically speaking, we grow 82-percent of the canned pumpkin in the world…” he said. “Just because they grow a few pumpkins doesn’t make them the Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
So powerful is Morton’s pumpkin influence that a representative from the Governor’s office recently visited Morton to make an announcement: that the state pie is now… pumpkin pie.
The Pumpkin Capital of the World. So powerful, even Governors bend to its will.
Okay, they can keep the title.
So, you know, if you’re into pumpkins and stuff, you might want to visit Morton, Illinois.