MAGGIE VALLEY — It’s fall y’all.
And in Maggie Valley that means one thing to local business owners and resident volunteers — rolling out the red carpet for visitors along a five-mile stretch of Soco Road from the Maggie Valley Inn to the Ghost Town parking lot.
The festive autumn displays, made of full-length corn stalks, scarecrows and colorful Indian corn, are bound with twine to literally dress up 300 telephone poles.
New to the displays this year are whimsical metal signs in the shapes of pumpkins, red and blue pickup trucks, crows and more anchored into strategically placed hay bale towers along the route, said Susan Pendley with the Fall Days Committee that organizes the event for the town of Maggie Valley, the Tourist Development Authority and the Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce.
“We were the first town in the area to start this kind of decorating event,” said Pendley, who added that the project has been going strong since its founding 26 years ago.
“The calls from businesses start coming in August about when we’re going to put up the decorations,” said Pendley. “It has come a long way since the first year, when we cut and tied the corn stalks ourselves. And if you’ve never cut corn before, it sure is itchy.”
In all, there are about 35 volunteers who show up on decorating day to get the job done. This year, Monday, Sept. 14, was designated as go day. By that point, Pendley said roughly 250 hours had been invested in organizing the event.
“We are so blessed with the people who come and volunteer to help out. We could not do it without them. They use their own vehicles and although many of the same people come back every year, we always have new blood,” Pendley said.
That’s music to the ears of the Fall Days Committee, which means the project has a bright future.
So, exactly how many pumpkins does it take to make up the 300 displays?
Pendley said she ordered 130 Big Mac pumpkins that weigh upward of 100 pounds, 300 large pumpkins, 200 cushaws (long-necked speckled gourds) and 175 cinderellas (multi-colored fairytale-shaped squash).
Volunteers Dan and Susan Dry said they’ve been helping out the event for years — he for about five and she for two. Around 3:30 p.m., about seven hours into the schedule, Dan Dry explained how the couple was assigned to cover a few telephone poles that were missed by the morning crew.
“It takes about 20 minutes to tie everything on, plus you need to shuck the corn to make the stalks look good,” Susan Dry said.
Back at the staging area, business owner Rob Edwards, who has helped the effort for 12 years and five-year volunteer Michelle Sticco were hard at work loading trucks with decorations set to be delivered to utility poles near the end of the line.
After loading what seemed like several hundred corn stalks and moving onto the Big Mac pumpkins that Edwards and Sticco had to double-team in order to get onto the back of a large trailer, the words “I need a spa day” could be heard hanging in the air.
To enjoy the fall displays, just drive along Soco Road through Maggie Valley.