Show or Festival? Creating the Circleville Pumpkin Show Brand

By Leah Hooks
October 18, 2023

Ohio is full of picturesque fall festivals featuring harvest themes, tasty seasonal treats, and local talent, but one event has managed to set itself apart from the rest: The Circleville Pumpkin Show. Brands of all sizes can learn some valuable communications lessons from this small-town festival with wide brand recognition and long-standing, steadfast loyalty.

  1. Set Your Brand Apart

Also known as The Greatest Free Show on Earth, The Circleville Pumpkin Show first began as a small fall agricultural exhibit all the way back in 1903. While this is technically Ohio’s oldest festival, any proud Circlevillian will tell you that it is a Show, not a festival. This distinction may seem insignificant, but it has allowed the small town of Circleville to set itself apart from the plethora of other fall festivals and fairs. This is something special. This is a Show.

Setting itself apart in this way has helped to garner attention from national news over the years, including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Searching “Pumpkin Show” on any search engine from anywhere in the world will garner results linking back to this small Ohio town. The Mayor of Circleville in 1903, George R. Haswell, surely had no idea that calling this a Show would be so helpful in terms of SEO 120 years later! It would have been easy to change the official name to The Pumpkin Festival as this event grew over time, but Circleville stayed true to its roots and leaned into the Show designation. Brands now have the benefit of knowing how setting yourself apart from the competition can be used in the digital age to spread brand awareness online.

  1. Create a Sense of Community

Although the Pumpkin Show has grown exponentially over the years, it has never lost its small-town charm. To display produce, compete in the Miss or Little Miss Pumpkin Show competitions, or enter arts and crafts into the annual contests, you must be a resident within trading distance of Circleville. The Pumpkin Show started out as a showcase of local produce and has maintained its presence as a celebration of local talent. Larger acts have performed at The Pumpkin Show over the years, including The Ohio State Marching Band, but local bands are still featured on the four stages scattered throughout the town every year. Creating a sense of community allows people to take ownership in the success of your brand.

  1. Garner Brand Buy-in and Representation

Why do over 400,000 visitors come to this town with a population of 14,000 every October? The success of The Pumpkin Show is attributed to a large number of Pickaway County residents who come together each year as volunteers to make this four (and a half) day celebration something to be remembered. Getting brand buy-in from your employees and loyalty from customers will keep your brand alive for generations to come.

  1. Treat Loyal Fans to Something Special

Pickaway County locals and regular Pumpkin Show fans all know that, although the Pumpkin Show officially starts on the third Wednesday of October, festivities actually start the evening before. On Tuesday night, visitors can get the first taste of fall favorites, pictures by the iconic pumpkin tower, and views of the Lindsey’s Bakery giant pumpkin pie before any little fingers have had a chance to make a dent in it. Although this isn’t a very guarded secret, it provides a special benefit for those who are able to attend earlier in the week. Many attendees begin posting on social media about The Pumpkin Show at the Tuesday evening preview, which acts as free promotion for the rest of the week. Brands can generate extra enthusiasm, and may even see free publicity, by extending a special benefit, offer, or deal to loyal fans.

  1. Make it Official

In addition to the Show distinction, Circleville has designated Winky the Pumpkin as the official Pumpkin Show mascot, even getting a national trademark on the crowned winking pumpkin and the term “Circleville Pumpkin Show” in 2018. Treating your brand, no matter how small, with the official nature of a larger entity shows that you are legitimate and helps build credibility with your audiences.

Today’s brands can learn from the special distinction and long-standing traditions of this small-town harvest celebration. Find inspiration from The Circleville Pumpkin Show: Set your brand apart from the masses and showcase uniqueness, even when it seems on the surface that you are one in a sea of other similar brands.