If it doesn’t feel quite like fall yet, a trip to the Albany County Fairgrounds this weekend is sure to put you in the mood.
Now in its third year, the Punkin Chunkin’ and Harvest Fall Festival is scheduled for 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday at the fairgrounds, 3510 S. Third St. Admission is $5 for everyone 5 and older, and all proceeds will benefit the Laramie Foster Closet.
The fall-themed party includes contests, food trucks, live music, indoor and outdoor games, petting zoo, vendors and flying pumpkins. The central element is the Punkin Chunkin’ competition, where teams will show off mechanical devices built to launch pumpkins as far as possible. There’s a separate division for children.
Jennifer Vazqueztell, who founded Laramie Foster Closet with her husband, Alan, said six teams will be vying for the title this year.
If you want to launch a gourd but didn’t bring your own trebuchet, visit the Chunker Junker station instead.
“You get to use a giant slingshot to chunk gourds at junker cars,” she said.
Spectators will have plenty of things to occupy their day while they dodge flying objects. The Harvest Festival includes a vendor fair with more than 50 sellers offering clothing, bath and body products, decorative items and more. Kids and adults can enter pumpkin-baking, pie-eating and costume contests.
A new event this year is chicken poop bingo, which works as the name suggests.
“It’s a live chicken in a coop with numbers, and if a chicken poops on your number, you win half the pot,” Vazqueztell said.
She said the festival keeps growing each year and is the main fundraiser for Laramie Foster Closet.
“We’ve been able to do more for our kids as a result, so we’re pretty excited,” she said.
The Vazqueztells started the Foster Closet in 2017, soon after moving to Laramie from Florida. The closet provides foster families with new or gently used clothing, baby gear, furniture, car seats, school supplies, sporting equipment and other necessities for kids of all ages.
The aim is to support foster families when they take children into their homes. Families often don’t know the age or gender of their child ahead of time, making it hard to prepare for a child who may arrive with no belongings.
In its first year, the Foster Closet served 36 families. Last year, it served 80.
“This year, we’re already well over 300,” Vazqueztell said. “We are growing quite quickly.”
That number includes foster families in Laramie, Goshen and Platte counties in addition to Albany County.
Every child that visits the closet receives new socks and underwear, and then they get to shop for whatever they want from the closet. They also receive a toothbrush, duffle bag, blanket and stuffed animal.
“We make sure that foster parents have what they need to care for their kids,” she said. “We alleviate financial stress so that foster parent can foster longer, but also so that our kids’ time in foster care isn’t traumatic.”
Vazqueztell said the Foster Closet currently needs new underwear for boys and girls in sizes from 2T-8 years old.
“We’ve had a huge influx of kids in that age range,” she said.
Donations can be made by entering the Laramie Plains Civic Center’s red doors at 710 Garfield, on the Seventh Street side, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Donations can also be made through an Amazon wish list.
After starting out in a storage container, the closet moved to a room on the third floor of the civic center the last year. Thanks to a grant from Walmart, the organization is planning to expand into a second room.