By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF
BIG SKY – It was freezing cold and snowy on Oct. 24, but that didn’t stop Laine Hegness, operations assistant with the Big Sky Community Food Bank from spreading cheer in her pumpkin costume.
The occasion was the Great Pumpkin Giveaway, a food drive for the food bank where community members make a canned food donation, selecting a pumpkin of their choosing in return. Last year, the event raised approximately 500 pounds in food donations for the food bank. This year, the event raised 897.5 pounds of food.
Event operations were modified this year to ensure that it was COVID-safe. All donations were made via curbside pickup stations along Lone Peak Drive around Fire Pit Park. Afterwards, families were able to peruse the bins of pumpkins in the center of the park and pick out their prize pumpkin.
“The event is a huge food drive for the Big sky Community Food Bank. I think it’s one of the largest food drives of their year. And it comes at a time when Big Sky locals and families are really in need,” Erik Morrison, the marketing and events manager of the Town Center Owner’s Association, said.
Participants in the giveaway are encouraged to post their carved pumpkins to the 2020 Pumpkin King & Queen Carving Competition Facebook Event.
This year, all of the pumpkins were donated by Roxy’s Market and Café.
“Roxy’s Market is honored to sponsor an event in collaboration with the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce,” said Roxy’s Market and Café General Manager Josh Treasure. “None of these events would be possible without the determination from our dedicated Big Sky volunteers and Big Sky Landscaping for lending a forklift. We must cherish the times that bring our beautiful Big Sky Community together!”
In addition to Roxy’s Market, the event was sponsored by, Visit Big Sky, Big Sky Community Organization, Big Sky Real Estate Co., and the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce.
“The Big Sky Chamber never hesitates to support this local event because it speaks to community and helps bring us together,” said Candace Carr Strauss, CEO of the Big Sky Chamber of Commerce. “Now more than ever we need to hang on to our traditions, although they may look different, as ways to keep us all connected. “
The Great Pumpkin Giveaway became part of the Haunted Peaks Festival three years ago and this was the fourth year that it occurred in its current format.
Before that, according to Sarah Gaither Bivins, operations manager at the Big Sky Community Food Bank, the event was part of the Fall Festival that took place in the Big Sky Community Park. The food bank operated a tent in the tradition of a farmer’s market.
Scott and Sally Fisher, who started Lone Peak Cinema in 2011, played a large role in helping the event evolve to its current format. The first year the giveaway happened, according to Bivins, Sally worked tirelessly, starting at 7 am to set all the pumpkins in the field to emulate a pumpkin patch.
The giveaway was the first food drive held by the food bank this year due to COVID-19. Echoing Morrison, Gaither Bivins noted that the event, “is coming at a really great time. We’re getting ready to go into our busy time, fall is always much busier for us at the food bank. People are in their off seasons, so they’re not getting paid. It’s a perfect time to help us stock up for the fall rush.”
The next planned food drive will take place at Lone Peak High School. The LPHS chapter of the National Honor Society will hold a Thanksgiving food drive for the food bank in November. This drive will be held specifically to collect food that will go in the Thanksgiving boxes handed out by the food bank.
Bivins expressed her gratitude to the partners sponsoring the giveaway and to the community for supporting the food bank.
“We’re really just happy to have these partnerships and have people think about creative ways to, you know, feed the community so yeah we’re very thankful for the coordination and help of others” Bivins said.