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People and Pumpkins by the Truckload : Festival: Calabasas event draws 20,000 for crafts, antiques and carvings of the squash of honor, carted in for the occasion.


CALABASAS — If fun was to be had at Sunday's Calabasas Days Pumpkin Festival, it was lost on 4-year-old Elliot Arluna. Literally.

Elliot, sitting on a bench outside of the National Park Service booth at the third annual fair, was searching for someone he recognized.

"We lose a lot of parents at these events," said park Ranger Bryan Sutton, trying to draw a parent's first name and description out of Elliot. "Mom and Dad are focusing on something else, and the kids are so small they can't be seen in the crowd."

After a few tense moments, Elliot's mom, Suzie Wooten, was found.

"Who found you? Did you just walk over here?" Wooten asked a quiet Elliot, who responded by shrugging his shoulders.

"See," Sutton said, "we haven't lost a parent yet."

Over the weekend, 20,000 fun-seekers made their way out to Paramount Ranch in the hills outside Calabasas for the two-day festival, which featured arts and crafts, food, country line dancing, games and an antiques auction.

Crowds under a huge white tent found bargains galore at the auction, which included an autographed gold record by Elvis Presley that sold for $125.

"They told me that yesterday the same thing sold for $1,800," said Peggi Christopher, 47, of Toluca Lake, who bought the collector's item for her 21-year-old son. "I hope my son loves it."

Although no pumpkins are actually grown in Calabasas, hundreds were transported to the festival to be sold and carved.

As soon as Aaron Hoffer, 8, saw the pile of orange squash at the front entrance of the festival, he headed straight for the largest pumpkin he could find and tried to pick it up.

Unfortunately it weighed more than 100 pounds.

"I can't pick it up," he squealed before rejoining his parents a few steps ahead of him.

Crowds surrounded festival volunteer Cindy Cohen, who was carving out intricate designs on pumpkins that sold for $25. The painstaking process took hours as patrons watched her nimble fingers jiggle a tiny hacksaw blade to create a wretched smile on a jack-o'-lantern.

"It takes some artistic talent to do that," a man explained to some children next to him.

"Not really," answered Cohen. "Just a lot of patience."

Other carved pumpkins featured the Grim Reaper swinging his sickle, a jack-o'-lantern with a smile that spelled "HALLOWEEN" and another with the head of a skeleton.

Nearby, Jimi Rogers, 13, and Briana Nelson, 12, were trying to smash a potato through a small hole with a sledgehammer at the Monster Mash table.

"We're having fun just smashing these," Briana said. "And in a little while we are going to be in the pie-eating contest."

"Yeah, but we are really having fun checking out the guys," Jimi piped up. "That's why we keep playing this game."

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