a tiny town with a big harvest

What do you think the village of Morton, Illinois, might be famous for?

Yes, this town of some 16,000 residents, a bedroom community of Peoria, was ranked one of the “10 best towns for families” in 2013 by Family Circle magazine.

And yes, it gained some infamy that same year when one of its neighborhoods blocked a Habitat for Humanity home from being built for a hearing-disabled veteran because they didn’t think the vinyl-sided home would fit into their brick-house community (after donations poured in as a result of the story, a brick house was built in its stead).

Is Morton, Illinois, the home of Morton Salt?


Morton University? No, those are both natives of Chicago, about 150 miles to the northeast.

Think fall … think round … think orange!

Morton is known as the Pumpkin Capital of the World.


Photo by Frenchtowner via Wikimedia Commons

Not only are several thousand acres around Morton growing pumpkins, but the Libby pumpkin cannery calls Morton home, canning up to 85 percent of the canned pumpkin in the U.S. So much pumpkin that the cannery runs day and night for about 13 weeks each year leading up to Thanksgiving. About 200 local farmers grow millions of pumpkins … not the kind you’d especially use for carving, but Dickinsons—tan-colored, oblong, thin-skinned pumpkins known for their rich flavor.


Dickenson pumpkins, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds

And each September at the beginning of pumpkin-harvest season, Morton holds their annual Pumpkin Festival, a 4-day event that attracts 100,000 visitors to the tiny town for events like Pumpkin Bingo, a pumpkin-decorating contest, a parade with over 100 entries where participants and spectators alike are encouraged to wear orange, and as many pumpkin-laden treats that residents can dream up … and visitors can eat up. And, of course, a pumpkin-pie eating contest!


Photo by Mike DelGaudio via Wikimedia Commons

Next year, try growing flavorful Dickinson pumpkins (can you believe it’s an heirloom variety?) for your own pies—find heirloom seeds at Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.


  1. Winnie Nielsen says:

    This is my kinda town! Wow, would I ever love to go to their Pumpkin Festival. In addition to Apples, Pumpkins reign high on my list of Fall loves. I have never heard of Dickinson variety either. Since the only pumpkins that will grow down here are Seminole Pumpkins, which have a nice flavor but more closely resemble Butternut Squash, I guess I will have to go to Morton, Illinois next year to check them out. Oh darn!

  2. Yep, Winnie, I agree- it’s my kind of town too ! I knew the Libby’s pumpkins were different than the standard orange, but never knew it was an heirloom, how cool is that?
    Today I’m off to my local little village’s AppleUmpkin Fest today- Winnie you’d be in heaven, eh? All things apple or pumpkin, a hay ride both night and day, local crafts for sale, games of all kinds that are fall oriented.The will serve local homemade apple dumplings served hot, plain or with milk or ice cream. The local specialty, chicken corn soup is always homemade also,great on a cool breezy fall day like this one And a favorite of the Lion’s club, the Grilled cheese sandwiches with a hamburger inside, decadent (and made with their own beef- not a commercial patty ).. Later on will be the bonfire with hotdogs, and marshmallows to roast. A costume parade ( you can’t say halloween costume parade in this religious area ) and much more. Its from 10Am to 10PM. I can hardly wait.

    • MaryJane says:

      Have a great pumpkin-filled day, Lisa!!! Guess I’ll stay home and eat some Mary Jane’s (if you know what I mean).

      • Thanks, just arrived home at 5Pm and it was swell but they ran out of food, since I arrived there late, rast,so nothing to eat. the weinie/marshmallow roast was for much later so I coundn’t stay that late.I also attended a juried PA German traditional craft show first which was amazingly good, museum quality stuff. Great! Maybe you can get them in Idaho, but I got the impression you couldn’t so enjoy! I like to pop a half of one on my mouth and let it slowly get gooey and melt.

  3. Winnie Nielsen says:

    Whoa, Lisa!! I would so LOVE to tag along with you today at the AppleUmpkin Festival!! How cool is that name? Homemade apple dumplings??? Ahhh, that would be awesome! Never mind dinner, I would be totally stuffed with dessert.

    I hope you have a wonderful time, Lisa and do weigh in tomorrow and let us know what fun you had.

    MaryJane, I would eat Mary Jane’s too except mine that came in the mail vanished. Hmmm, I wonder how that happened??!! Instead, Warren and I have been scrubbing the deck and outdoor furniture all afternoon. I’ve been promised dinner out and an Apple Cider as reward. Perfect!!

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