Sixteen years ago, huddled around a kitchen table, sipping Bourbon, four Kelly Drive neighbors got a hair-brained idea.
George Abide, Karl Cambronne, John Horkey and Joe Purvis thought it would be a good idea to start growing giant pumpkins. Little did they know their small idea would snowball into a giant, annual event.
"I always thought it would be fun to grow a giant pumpkin," Abide said, thinking back on the founding day in 1996. "I told the guys that we should create a little club to grown giant pumpkins."
That day, the Kelly Drive Pumpkin Grower's Association was born, and so was the annual pumpkin weigh-off event--a neighborhood gathering that draws in hundreds of people each year.
But growing giant gourds has nothing to do with pumpkins. It's about community.
"It gives us an excuse to walk in our neighbor's yards, talk and check out the pumpkins," Abide said. "It's about being neighbors, not about the pumpkins."
The first year that Abide, Cambronne, Horkey and Purvis planted giant pumpkin seeds, they weren't sure what to expect.
"My pumpkin died pretty quick," Abide recalled. "But our neighbor had the biggest pumpkin that year. By today's standards it wouldn't be that big. But back then, it was the most amazing thing we had ever seen."
Today, roughly a dozen families on Kelly Drive plant pumpkins and wait anxiously for the weigh-off event in October. Some neighbors even go to extremes to ensure the health of their plants.
"One year, a guy set up an IV system that was feeding water continuously to his pumpkin," Steve Litton, who's also a pumpkin judge, said. "We joked and called it his 'inter-vineous' system."
Others slowly grow their pumpkins in their home during early spring before bringing seedlings outside to plant in the yard.
"Growing pumpkins really causes people to interact with each other," Cambronne said. "In today's world, with so much technology, it's so easy to become sheltered. Pumpkin growing is the opposite. We pat each other on the back, drink a beer and joke around."
At a Golden Valley City Council meeting earlier this month, Mayor Shep Harris said that the Kelly Drive Pumpkin Growers Association Weigh-off event is straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting, and he wasn't kidding. Hay wagons, homemade food, music, games and, of course, pumpkins take up the fall afternoon, which will be held on Oct. 6 this year.
And while anyone is welcome to the event, Kelly Drive neighbors encourage other Golden Valley communities to find their own common ground.
"The event, and the pumpkins, really give our neighborhood a small-town feel," Litton said. "It's a wonderful, wholesome event."