Table of Contents Show
- Where Is the Pumpkin Capital of the World?
- Why Is Morton, IL, Called the Pumpkin Capital of the World?
- What Is the Morton Pumpkin Festival?
- What Can You Expect At the Morton, IL, Pumpkin Festival?
- What Else Can You Do Near Morton, IL?
- Plan Your Next Fall Adventure to Morton, IL: the Pumpkin Capital of the World
Although almost every state grows pumpkins, one place in the Midwest produces 41% of the entire country’s pumpkin crop: Illinois.
The well-drained soil and hot, dry weather make Illinois the top pumpkin producer in the United States. One city in particular — Morton, IL — is the Pumpkin Capital of the World. Why? Let’s find out!
Where Is the Pumpkin Capital of the World?
Morton, Illinois, is known as the pumpkin capital of the world. This suburb of Peoria has about 17,000 residents. Morton sits southeast of Peoria along the I-155 and I-74 interchange.
It’s just an hour north of the state capital in Springfield and about two and a half hours southwest of Chicago.
Why Is Morton, IL, Called the Pumpkin Capital of the World?
Because Libby’s has its headquarters in Morton, IL, the city has earned the nickname “Pumpkin Capital of the World.” The canning factory sits on North Morton Avenue, just off I-74. During the pumpkin harvest, it’s the world’s largest pumpkin factory, with approximately 200 employees.
If you’ve made a pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, you’ve likely used Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin. In fact, eight out of every ten cans of pumpkin sold across the world come from Morton, IL. This is why the Governor of Illinois signed a proclamation in 1978 that Morton was the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
Libby’s pumpkins don’t look like the picture-perfect carving pumpkins on your front porch. They’re grown for canning.
Thousands of acres of Libby’s Select pumpkins, a strain of the Dickinson pumpkin, are planted annually. These oval and pale orange pumpkins don’t make the cut for family photos, but they’re ideal for pumpkin pie!
What Is the Morton Pumpkin Festival?
Every September, Morton, IL, hosts the Pumpkin Festival. About 75,000 guests walk Jefferson Street, enjoying the festivities of fall. There’s a pumpkin pickleball tournament, a tennis open, a fishing derby, a bike ride, and a big wheel race leading up to the opening weekend.
During the weekend, guests participate in pumpkin decorating, enjoy carnival rides, shop the merchandise tents, watch the Pumpkin Princess Pageant, vote for the next Pumpkin’s Got Talent and Pumpkin Idol, Jr., and browse the arts and crafts market.
There are over 30 activities during the Morton, IL, Pumpkin Festival. Next year’s festival is from September 11 through September 14, 2024.
What Can You Expect At the Morton, IL, Pumpkin Festival?
The Pumpkin Festival in Morton, IL, is officially four days long. But the festivities kick off about ten days before the opening night.
Two Sundays before the first night is the pickleball tournament, the following Friday is the tennis open, and that Saturday is the tennis open, fishing derby, and bike ride.
More events and activities occur on the Tuesday before kick-off. Then, at 4:00 p.m. on the Wednesday of opening night, the pumpkin stores, family fun patch, and carnival rides open up for visitors.
The opening ceremony is at 5:00 p.m., followed by entertainment. Thursday, Friday, and Saturday have events, entertainment, and activities starting at 6:30 a.m. until the late evening hours. It’s a party that lasts from sun up to sun down!
What Else Can You Do Near Morton, IL?
If you plan on visiting Morton, IL, for the Pumpkin Festival, there are a few other fun things to do in the area.
Although you could spend your entire weekend in Morton, IL, enjoying the pumpkin eating contest and pumpkin weigh-offs, you’ll likely want to see a few other things on your visit. Here are our suggestions!
Visit the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center
Want to take a virtual ride in the bed of a massive two-and-a-half-story Cat 797F mining truck?
Visit the Doug Oberhelman Caterpillar Visitors Center in Peoria, IL. You can also design a Cat machine, see what it’s like to operate equipment in a simulator and climb in a track-type tractor.
General admission tickets cost $7, tickets for children 12 and under are free, and seniors, veterans, and active military tickets cost $6. The visitors center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
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Play at the Children’s Discovery Museum
If the Morton Pumpkin Festival activities weren’t enough to wear out your kids, head to the Children’s Discovery Museum in Normal, IL. It’s about 30 miles east of Morton down I-74. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, but hours vary, so check the website for the most up-to-date information.
Younger kids will love playing with the train sets and “cooking” on a grill, while older kids will appreciate the Innovation Station with STEAM activities like building and creating. Tickets cost $10 for adults and children.
Sip Wine at Mackinaw Valley Vineyard
The Mackinaw Valley Vineyard sits about 20 minutes from Morton, IL. The winner of multiple International and Regional Wine competitions, Mackinaw Valley Vineyard, is an ideal place to unwind after a busy day.
With over 20 wines to taste and a beautiful 86-acre property, the vineyard makes a great date night or girls’ night out. Trivia nights and live bands also create a fun, entertaining evening.
Spend an Afternoon at the Wildlife Prairie Park
Another family-friendly outing near Morton, IL, is the Wildlife Prairie Park in Hanna City. About 30 minutes from Morton, the park has bison, elk, black bears, cougars, eagles, otters, owls, snakes, domesticated farm animals, and more.
Most of these animals were rescued and won’t be released back into the wild. You can also stay overnight at the park in a cabin, lodge room, or even a train caboose!
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Explore the Peoria Riverfront Museum
Finally, the Peoria Riverfront Museum is a fantastic place where exhibits constantly change. From folk art to the popular BODY WORLDS to the permanent Holocaust memorial, there’s so much to see and do here.
The Dome Planetarium features shows about space. The Giant Screen Theater also shows various films, from dinosaurs to featured artists. The Peoria Riverfront Museum is definitely a stop to put on your Illinois itinerary.
Plan Your Next Fall Adventure to Morton, IL: the Pumpkin Capital of the World
Next fall, why not plan a trip to Morton, IL? Enjoy the activities of the Pumpkin Festival and the local attractions. There’s something for history buffs, artists, nature lovers, families, singles, and couples. Make the Pumpkin Capital of the World your next fall destination!
What will your favorite part of the Morton Pumpkin Festival be?