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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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How Pumpkinpalooza supports family fun and nature conservation

Photo by Adriano Espinosa

Relay competitors pass the pumpkin atop Mt. Millican during Pumpkinpalooza at the Millican Reserve on Oct 15, 2023(Adriano Espinosa/ The Battalion).

Amidst the arrival of long-awaited glimpses of an autumn breeze and sought-after sightings of fallen, colored leaves, Millican Reserve Land Conservancy, a Brazos Valley nature Conservancy, hosted its annual Pumkinpalooza on Oct. 14 and 15. 

The event was a family-friendly gathering geared toward wholesome community fun and brings awareness to Millican Reserve’s goal of encouraging the enjoyment and preservation of nature. Millican Reserve Land Conservancy Board Chair Jack McFarlane said it has blossomed into an event that the people of College Station look forward to.  

With Pumpkinpalooza serving as Millican Reserve’s biggest fundraising event of the year, they wanted to ensure that people were able to enjoy being outside and have a good time whilst raising awareness and funding for the Conservancy, McFarlane said. 

“Our mission is to build a healthy community around nature, with lots of programming year-round geared toward that,” McFarlane said. “We do land stewardship at Millican Reserve. We do outdoor programming. We run a summer camp [and] we do all sorts of things designed to get people outside.”

With over 1,000 acres of land in south College Station, working in collaboration with local vendors in setting up games, food, music and an overall harmonious environment was a work in progress, McFarlane said. 

“For 10 years, we have cultivated and coordinated the different vendors and we have that perfect mix right now with local vendors,” McFarlane said. “From our perspective it’s about building community, raising awareness and building a community around nature. A lot of people plan their fall holidays around Pumpkinpalooza at this point, so it’s a lot of fun for us.”

A long relationship between A&M’s many departments and schools has led to professors encouraging their students to work in collaboration with Millican Reserve, McFarlane said. 

“It’s not just recreation park and tourism sciences ,” McFarlane said. “We also work with wildlife and fisheries, architecture and real estate. I don’t wanna leave anybody out, but we work with a ton of different departments and schools at A&M.”

Further, with a large influx of families out of Millican Reserve, Pumpkinpalooza still gets a range of all ages, said McFarlane.

“We work with Rec Sports and Outdoor Adventures, there’s canoeing and kayaking out here,” McFarlane said. “We do pumpkin chucking which is really cool, fly fishing, lots of things not just geared toward little kids. We’re all about just trying to get people outside.”

Assistant event manager with Wonderfully Wed, another organization working with Pumpkinpalooza, and communications senior, Laurel Reed is a student within the recreation, park and tourism department working to get her certificate in professional event management.

“I got involved [with Pumpkinpalooza] through my class because I am in RPTS 321, and we work in a team of five to seven students who are also trying to get their certificate in professional event management,” Reed said. “We have different roles, I am team lead for my project. The RPTS department works with local companies and businesses to enhance marketing on anything the client wants.” 

Building relationships with exciting vendors who are fun and engaging with the kids as well as making sure everyone is taken care of and having a good time has made the experience so much better, Reed said.

“Something really cool as a college student that’s been working [on Pumpkinpalooza] is that there’s a lot of networking, and Aggies definitely enhance and harp on the idea of networking and building your name up,” Reed said.  “There’s a lot of local vendors that I’ve gotten to speak with and have interactions with and even professors that have been here and getting to talk to those people [has] been really cool.” 

The opportunity to raise awareness of hiking trails and the nature Conservancy that Millican offers has made lots of email threads and a whole bunch of time spent worth it, Reed said. 

“I love all these people having so much fun, and honestly seeing the community of College Station because we are college students and get wrapped up into the 19 to 23 year olds,” Reed said. “It’s fun to see little kids just mindlessly play with corn and pumpkins.” 

Ashley Holiday, a mother of two who lives in south College Station, came to Pumpkinpalooza last year after finding out about it through her mom. They returned this year as it’s now become a bit of a family tradition, Holiday said.

“We love it,” Holiday said. “It’s lowkey, not too crowded and the kids have lots of fun. There’s things for the little ones, older kids and things for us too. My daughter, who’s six, loves all the kid activities. She loves everything from face painting to the mountain, but my favorite part is probably just watching them have fun.” 

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