Painting the town pink

Smith’s Acres continues a tradition that supports walkers in TBBCF annual fundraiser

By KATHLEEN EDGECOMB

Teri Smith, the owner of Smith’s Acres in downtown Niantic, doesn’t remember the year she first organized a pumpkin decorating event to support walkers in the Terri Brodeur Breast Cancer Foundation’s annual Walk Across Southeastern Connecticut.

She’s not sure how many pumpkins – but it’s between 125-150 – that she and volunteers paint pink, decorate and then place along Main Street in downtown Niantic a day before hundreds of breast cancer patients, survivors and their families and friends pass through town on their way to Camp Harkness in Waterford.

What she does know is that the first year when she came over the hill and looked down onto Main Street and saw the pumpkins and other decorations lining both sides of the street, she burst into tears.

“I cried all the way home,” she said. “My mom would have loved it.”

Smith lost her mother to breast cancer 17 years ago. When she heard about the annual fundraising walk for the Brodeur Foundation and its mission to give 100 percent of fundraising dollars to breast cancer research, she wanted to help.

She and her friend, Sue Kumro of Mermaid Liquors at 159 Main St., put out donation jars on their counters and collected money to buy the pumpkins and the paint. Smith buys them wholesale. Any extra money they collect is a cash donation to the Brodeur Foundation, she said. The Niantic Main Street organization, of which Kumro is the vice president and Smith is the treasurer, also helps with the project.

Smith and a couple friends paint the pumpkins in various shades of pink a week before the Saturday walk and she hosts a pumpkin decorating party and invites the public to bring decorations to the greenhouse at Smith’s Acres. There are fake eyelashes, glitter, sequences, boas and hats. The result is tables of fabulous pink pumpkins that are then distributed across downtown. Cheerleaders from Waterford High School load the pumpkins onto wagons and place them on both sides of Main Street. Merchants get into the spirit and sometimes do their own decorating, adding scarecrows, flowers and pink flags and ribbon.

Smith said every year about 40 people participate in the project.

And the community loves it, she said.

Mischievous kids have been known to smash pumpkins left on doorsteps but Smith said in all the years the pink pumpkins have been on display outside businesses, there’s never been any vandalism.

“It’s really fun,” said Smith, who thinks she started the project in 2011. “How can you not smile at a pink pumpkin.”

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