Port Elgin Pumpkinfest was created when an extensive town business plan study encouraged the Town of Port Elgin and the Business Improvement Area to create a "shoulder season" event or attraction to extend the tourist season to attract additional tourist dollars.
The first weigh off called "The Great Pumpkin Event" was held in 1986 with crowds of 200 and pumpkins weighing in at 250lbs. The festival was only one day and held at Coulters Parkette in downtown Port Elgin. The festival did not take place in 1987 as the Committee was in the process of becoming part of the World Pumpkin Confederation. In 1988, the paper work was complete and the name "Port Elgin Pumpkinfest" was adopted. Throughout the 1980's Port Elgin Pumpkinfest moved from the Parkette to the Casino and then to the Port Elgin Arena. The festival grew in numbers from 200 to 6,000 and at the end of the decade remained the only official WPC Weigh Off site in Ontario.
The 1990's saw many changes for Port Elgin Pumpkinfest. In 1991 the Port Elgin & District Chamber of Commerce became the sponsoring body of the festival and moved it to the Port Elgin Curling Club. 1992 had the festival becoming a two day event hosting the WPC Weigh Off on Saturday and a local Weigh-Off on Sunday. The festival outgrew its new home after the 1993 festival and moved to the grounds of Saugeen District Secondary School in 1994. That year saw crowds of 22,000 visitors and had more than 30 events and attractions held over the two days. The addition of the Cinderella's Carriage Antique and Classic car show happened in 1995 with 120 cars lining the downtown core. To help with the rising number of visitors, Port Elgin Pumpkinfest added shuttle buses to the festival in 1996 and celebrated its 10th Anniversary with attendance figures close to 40,000. In 1997 Port Elgin Pumpkinfest left the WPC and became an Independent Weigh-off Site that offered a prize package of more than $33,000.00. 1998 and 1999 were award winning years for Port Elgin Pumpkinfest as attendance continued to grow. The festival received the People's Choice Award in 1998 and swept the Festival and Events Ontario Awards in 1999 in its budget category.
The New Millennium has brought changes and new things to Port Elgin Pumpkinfest's already established level of excellence. The International Weigh Off became part of the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth in 2001 and continues to be a part of the organization. The festival continues to maintain the visitor numbers (now approaching 60,000) and follows through on its promise to bring a new event each year. Elephant Rides in 2000; Elephant tug-o-war in 2001; Zoo to You and Mad Science in 2002; Military Obstacle Course and Harvest Star Search in 2003; Helicopter Rides in 2004; Birds of Prey and The Toronto Maple Leafs Off Ice Hockey Tour in 2005; Giant Mural Area in 2006; Mascot Photo Booth in 2007; Petal?s Entertainment Stage, Twin?s Game Zone and Patches Pumpkin Patch in 2008; and Patches Drive In & Patches Recreation and Outdoor Adventure show in 2009. Port Elgin Pumpkinfest continues to win Provincial awards each year and has been named one of Ontario's Top 100 Events.
These accomplishments and the years of wonderful history would not have been possible without all the volunteers, non-profit groups and hundreds of sponsors that make up the Port Elgin Pumpkinfest Family. As the festival prepares for its future the focus on attracting tourism in the shoulder season and staging an affordable community run festival remain the top objectives as they have been from the beginning.