On a crisp October day in 1986, Orville and Loretta Tomky loaded up their pickup truck with extra pumpkins and drove to Crowley County Elementary School.
This was the beginning of a tradition that lasted 33 years.
In 1987, Orville had the school load up their buses and let the children pick their own pumpkins. In the years that ensued, there were two rules that have been established — one pumpkin per child and the children have to be able to carry the pumpkin by themselves.
In later years when the pumpkin supply was more plentiful, Orville invited the children from Fowler Elementary School to partake in the festivities. In other years, Orville has allowed other groups to come out and pick pumpkins after Crowley County and Fowler finished picking theirs.
Orville was asked why he gave away free pumpkins.
"When I was growing up during the Great Depression, we couldn't afford a pumpkin, so I want the kids today to be able to have a free pumpkin," he said.
Orville passed away in August 2016.
In 2011, Orville passed the torch to his son, John, and grandson, David. It was up to them to plant the pumpkin crop.
Last year was not a good one for pumpkins on the John and Michelle Tomky farm. After a late planting date, the pumpkins were starting to turn orange. A 12-degree frost ruined the crop about a week before ripening.
So much for the trials and tribulations of farming.
The last basketball game of the season each between Crowley County and Fowler will have the winning team take home a traveling trophy, a commemorative T-shirt, and bragging rights for the year.
This past year was very trying to the Fowler and Crowley County communities, and the Tomky family. Fowler boys basketball coach Mark Lowther lost his mother, Jan. Crowley county boys basketball coach Gary Baker passed away as the first practice of the season was starting for the team. Donna Tomky, Orville's and Loretta's eldest daughter, lost her three-year fight to ovarian cancer.
This year, John and Michelle want to honor their sisters, lifelong neighbor and friend with the T-shirt that will be given out this year. The shirts will be teal, the color for ovarian cancer, and have the initials of Orville, Loretta and Donna Tomky, along with Gary Baker and Jan Lowther. It is known that there are many other heavy hearts in the community and the Tomky family would like to extend its love and concern to all the people of the Arkansas Valley who have lost loved one recently. The shirts are being made by Graphic Designs Inc., of Cheraw.
On Friday, the 11th annual Orville Tomky Pumpkin game will take place at Crowley County High School's Charger Gymnasium in Ordway. John Tomky will live stream the games on www.myhometeamsports.com using the streaming services of www.network1sports.com. Fans at home will be able to listen on their tablets, I-phones and androids in addition to home computers.
John hopes the 11th annual Pumpkin game will add to the tradition.
"There is nothing like small-town USA and sports rivalry between schools like Fowler and Crowley County," he said. "The annual Orville Tomky Pumpkin Game outlived Orville and hopefully outlives me."
This past year, the trophy for the boys and girls resided in Fowler. Where will the trophy reside in 2019-20?