Flemings Pumpkin Run Car Show is a unique piece of local culture that sprung up in the mid-1990s. Some car-club friends had seen the big show out in Carlisle, Pa., figured South Jersey should have its own show and tried a car show with vendors in an Egg Harbor Township junkyard around Halloween.
The couple dozen classic cars and decent crowd that first year were a fast start and soon grew into hundreds of vehicles of all kinds and thousands of people from across the Eastern Seaboard. Added attractions included food, a flea market, residential tractor pulls and a pumpkin cannon. Now there’s also a restored diner and two racecar museums.
Surprising success brought, unfortunately, predictable problems with traffic and parking at the still somewhat rural Zion Road site south of Bargaintown.
Locals learned to avoid the area on show day, but those living nearby didn’t have that choice.
In 2017, township officials and police intervened, requiring founder Harry Fleming to come up with a workable traffic and parking plan as a condition of holding the show. Realizing he couldn’t do that in time for that year’s show, he moved it to an open and easier to manage site in Upper Township.
By throwing the Pumpkin Run a lifeline, Upper officials kept it going for a couple of years but it wasn’t the same. Fans from all over urged Egg Harbor Township to find a way for the show to go on, including a woman in Tennessee who made her case in a Voice of the People letter.
Fleming kept working on a plan for the original location, with its authentic rustic setting. This year, the 23rd Annual Pumpkin Run Car Show returns to the woods on Zion Road where it was born (although the “retired auto graveyard” is now called Joe & Jack’s Auto Repair).
Mayor Paul Hodson said the township supports the popular event and wants to help make it a success, but also wants to help the residents who may be inconvenienced by crowds converging on the site.
Fleming has met with township officials this year and discussed ways to relieve the traffic congestion. Better signage will direct drivers to parking for the show in the junkyard and at the large lot of the adjacent Atlantic Christian School. Police officers will direct traffic in front of the show and where Zion intersects Ocean Heights Avenue.
On Saturday, everyone will find out how well the new plan works (or on Nov. 9 if it’s raining this weekend).
We hope it goes smoothly and rewards township officials and police for working with the show, and Harry Fleming for not giving up on his iconic fall event.