Ross Bennett grew up in Floydada, a sweet spot in rural, west Texas infamously known as the Pumpkin Capital of the USA. Throughout his childhood he remembers visiting ‘’Punkin’ Days’, a huge event hosted every October in his small hometown. The festival attracted people from near and far to purchase and enjoy all things pumpkin and local. Attending this memorable tradition year after year eventually inspired Bennett in adulthood to create a vision for a business.
Collegiate tennis brought Bennett to Abilene in 2004 where he played for McMurry University. As all college kids do, Bennett began thinking more about his future and ways to make money. He remembered the excitement of ‘’Punkin’ Days’ from his youth, people purchasing pumpkins left and right while they were at the event and knew that if he found a way to get pumpkins back to Abilene, people would buy them. The only hiccup in his plan was finding someone that would allow him access to their pumpkins.
Bennett wasted no time and reached out to a local farmer from Floydada. He shared his idea, and the rest is history. Shortly after that conversation, Bennett found himself driving up and down the rows of a pumpkin field filling up the back of his Ram pickup truck and that was the day, back in 2007, that he unknowingly started his journey as ‘The Pumpkin Man’.
‘My business began while I was going to school at McMurry,’ Bennett said. ‘When I would visit home, I would load up the back of my pickup truck with pumpkins and while on campus, the faculty and staff members would buy them.’
Shortly after he began selling on campus, connections started to form, and his little side hustle turned into something bigger. Customers were sharing with friends and sharing ideas. Bennett soon found himself selling pumpkins to the floral department of a local grocery store for fall inspired floral arrangements. His next adventure was taking the pumpkins on the road and setting up shop at various homes and neighborhoods to throw pumpkin parties. Eventually, Bennett and his team began delivering directly to front porches and would take on the task of arranging pumpkins so that customers didn’t have to.
While every facet of his business is appreciated and enjoyed, Bennett loves pumpkin parties because it brings people together.
‘At a Pumpkin Party, I bring a trailer full of various styles and sizes of pumpkins to the host’s neighborhood and they simply invite friends and families over to shop’, Bennett said.
Bennett now does these types of events for both neighborhoods and businesses all over the Big Country where he hosts on average 50 parties a year, from the second weekend of September through Halloween. Because of the many places and faces that Bennett has served over the last 16 years, he often gets recognized when he’s out in the community.
‘I run into people all the time that say they know me from somewhere and most of the time, as soon as I mention pumpkins, that’s where they know me from,’ Bennett said. ‘That is why I’m The Pumpkin Man.’
While he never expected to be known for his pumpkins, the biggest surprise for Bennett has been the loyalty of his customer base. Their excitement to host parties year after year and willingness to share with other people has helped create his business as it is today. What started in the bed of his pickup truck has now turned into two semi loads with thousands of pumpkins getting dispersed annually throughout the Big Country and the joy that comes with having the pumpkin parties makes it all worthwhile.
‘After years of being in the business, I’ve noticed that no matter what age you are, there is something about pumpkins that makes people happy,’ Bennett said. ‘I have the opportunity to bring friends and family members together and THAT makes all of the sweat of loading trailers full of pumpkins totally worth it.’
Ross and his wife Leah reside in Abilene with their three kids Lyla, Max and Ella ages 6, 4, and 2. He can be found on Facebook at The Pumpkin Man or visit his website, www.abilenepumpkins.com. At either place, you will find information to connect, book your very own neighborhood pumpkin party, schedule a porch decorating appointment, or get your own customized pumpkin painted with a business or sports team logo.
By Nicole Fletcher
Photos By Shayli Anne Photography