Common Ground Pumpkin Festival created fun for all


Carol Ann McLevige (in center holding her 'Golden Pan' award) was named the winner of the "People's Choice Best Pie."

St. Andrew Lutheran Church provided hours of fun at the 2022 “Common Ground Pumpkin Festival" on Saturday, Sept. 24. Though it was a chilly fall day, it failed to stop around 550 people from having pure fall fun.

The main highlight of the event was made possible by church members Ray and Lisa Redieske,  who planted 2,000 pumpkin seeds, sharing the results of those seeds in the form of freshly-grown pumpkins. The Redieske family donated all of the pumpkins they grew.

“These seeds created 800 pumpkins,” event organizer Lisa Redieske said. “We wanted to have an even where everything was free to the public. I shared the idea to have some kind of a fall theme pumpkin festival and it kept growing, with church members coming up with more ideas.”

The church grounds were covered with things to do for all ages. Little ones played in a hay pile. Hay rides took everyone on a scenic trip.

Excitement mounted as an OSF St. Anthony helicopter landed on the ground, offering opportunities to go inside to see details.

Rockton Police were on hand to give tours of a squad car and to become better acquainted with the public. Rockton Fire Protection District gave tours of fire trucks.

Children and adults chose a pumpkin from a large field. Each pumpkin was given its own special flair through decorating.

More fun came in the form of various games fitting the events fall theme such as a duck pond or knocking over a pumpkin.

Talented hands performed face painting on young and young at heart. An opportunity to get super creative came with the option of stuffing a scarecrow.

A Winnebago County K-9 conducted a drug and weapons search working out of three separate bins.

Testing baking skills of church members, a pie tasting contest determined the winner and a “People's Choice” of the “Best Pie.”

Carol Ann McLevige earned honors for her Oreo cookie pie, winning a 'Golden Pan' award.

Pies were auctioned off via a live auction which was both competitive and friendly at the same time. Prices on each pie continued to rise with each bid, with all proceeds earmarked to go back into the community.

St. Andrew Church warmly welcomed Caritas and the LCC K-9 Comfort Dog ministry.

The LCC (Lutheran Church Charities) K-9 ministry was launched in 2008 and is a national human care ministry that embraces the unique, calming nature and skills of purebred Golden Retrievers. The LCC K-9 Comfort Dogs are a bridge for compassionate ministry, which opens doors for a conversation about faith and creating opportunities to share the mercy, compassion, presence and proclamation of Jesus Christ. These dogs are working animals who are trained to interact with people of all ages and circumstances - anyone who is suffering and in need.

They participate in scheduled and special events. Dogs are permanently placed with churches, schools, and other ministries involved in Christian human care by LCC. Permanent placement includes full training for handlers and caregivers along with ongoing support, coaching and training.

This program is offered at no charge to those who need it. Comfort dogs live in homes of caregivers. Dogs serve every day in the community and where they are placed and dispatched in times of disaster and crisis to bring comfort to everyone who are affected by those circumstances, including first responders and volunteers.

This ministry serves in more than 26 states and operates three training facilities in IL.

Caritas is based out of Beloit, WI. This helpful organization provides food and clothing to neighbors north of Rockford IL, and south of Janesville, WI. Additionally, Caritas has a food pantry and gives back through the distribution of the recommended USDA's MyPlate foods and nutrients.

At the event, many took a break to try food from the food truck of Los Alacranes or to pick up slushies. Making the day even better, apples were donated by Edwards Apple Orchard.

A booth decorated out of hay bales provided photo opportunities, with church youth taking pictures for families or individuals. As a bonus, mini Polaroid pictures were also available.

The church was open and everyone had a chance to meet St. Andrew Church's new pastor, Donald Stein, who baked pies for the event and also bid on a few.

Smiles and fun were created at St. Andrew Churches first Common Ground Pumpkin Festival. Next year organizers and volunteers are planning to make the event even bigger!

“We would like to extend a special thank you to the public coming out and for supporting the first Common Ground Pumpkin Festival,” Redieske said.

The Grider family returned from the fields with pumpkins they had chosen during the first Common Ground Pumpkin Festival, held at St. Andrew Church on Saturday, Sept. 24.
The Lopez family took a break to make a memory at a custom made photo booth fashioned out of hay bales with a few special touches added in.
Common Ground Pumpkin Festival organizer Lisa Redieske was joined by her granddaughter Annabelle Czyz at the event.
Lots of fun was had by everyone who took a scenic spin on a hayride.
Children played in stacks of hay.
Carol Ann McLevige (in center holding her 'Golden Pan' award) was named the winner of the "People's Choice Best Pie."
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