For the last couple of decades, the first weekend in October means one thing in the city of Allardt: enormous pumpkins.
"The Giant Pumpkin Festival is a big deal for us," said Allardt mayor Phillip Gernt. "This year we had about 12,000 people here and we weighed the biggest pumpkin in festival history. It weighed 1,331 pounds."
The small city in Fentress County allows visitors to step back in time, but not just because it is located where Eastern Time changes to Central Time. Residents have preserved many historic buildings, including an old one-room school building that now provides lodging for tourists.
"Tourism is a big part of Allardt," said Lowanda Gernt, postmaster of Allardt and owner of The Old Allardt Schoolhouse. "A lot of people used to mispronounce the name. It is pronounced 'AL-urt.' Maybe we're getting to be a little bit better known because most folks do a good job of pronouncing it these days. Today everybody knows where the Pumpkin Festival is."
The pumpkin is a relatively recent part of Allardt's heritage. Prior to the early 1990s when the city began holding the pumpkin weigh-off, the community was mostly known for its origins as a German settlement.
"My grandfather settled it. His name was Bruno Gernt. He was originally from Germany, then moved to Michigan, then settled here around 1880," said Phillip Gernt.
Bruno Gernt had experience colonizing in Michigan. When the railroads provided access to the rugged hills in Tennessee, opportunities arose for the construction of new communities in the Cumberland Plateau.
Bruno Gernt and a few others from Michigan decided to create their own German community in Tennessee.
"My grandfather, he recruited people from Germany to come here," said Phillip Gernt. "He put ads and brochures in Germany and in German communities in this country advertising the property."
One of Bruno Gernt's partners in creating this new settlement was a man named M.H. Allardt. Allardt served as the "Commissioner of Emigration" from 1869 until 1875 for the state of Michigan in Germany and had a wealth of experience settling new areas.
Allardt visited the area with Gernt and helped draw a conceptual map for the future town. Allardt died in Port Huron, Michigan, in 1882 before he was able to move to the new Tennessee community.
"Mr. Allardt was definitely one of the settlers with all of the work he did. When he passed away they named this community for him and that's the reason it is Allardt today," said Phillip Gernt.
Although Allardt never lived in the settlement that was named for him, his widow moved to the city. Today many residents are direct descendants of the people who created the city.
"It is just a nice place to live. We have great trails for hiking, horseback riding, gorgeous waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and the people here are wonderful," said Phillip Gernt.
"They love the quaintness and the quiet peaceful surroundings. As far as we are concerned, it is the garden spot of the world." Lowanda Gernt laughingly added, "The giant garden spot."
As for the origins of the pumpkin festival, Phillip Gernt said a local resident grew a 700 pound pumpkin sometime around 1990.
"We already had a homecoming parade and festival that started in the mid-1980s. When we saw how many people were driving out to see this giant pumpkin, someone had the idea to make it a part of the festival. It just grew from there," said Phillip Gernt.
Send your Namesake suggestions
If there is a place or landmark with a name you would like us to
research, send your suggestions to 10News reporter Jim Matheny using the
"Namesake Suggestions" form on this page. Be sure to include your name
and a note on how to pronounce it in case we use your suggestion
on-air. Likewise, please let us know if you do not want us to use your
You can also submit suggestions on Jim Matheny's WBIR Facebook page as well as on Twitter @jimmatheny.
Note: Namesake is the renamed title of the series formerly known as 'Why do they call it that?'
Other Namesake Segments
- November 15, 2012: Holy Butt
- January 6, 2012: Princess Theater
- December 23, 2011: Bethlehem
- November 29, 2011: Turkey Creek
- November 11, 2011: Kinser Bridge & Kinser Park
- November 4, 2011: Shields-Watkins Fields
- October 28, 2011: Punkin Center
- October 21, 2011: Rockford
- September 30, 2011: Kimberlin Heights
- September 23, 2011: Conasauga Falls
- September 16, 2011: Pittman Center
- September 9, 2011: Concord
- August 19, 2011: LaFollette
- August 12, 2011: House Mountain
- July 29, 2011: Mosheim
- July 15, 2011: Place of 1,000 Drips
- July 1, 2011: Tellico Plains
- June 17, 2011: Vestal
- June 4, 2011: Maynardville
- May 27, 2011: Sandy Bonnyman Bridge
- May 14, 2011: Bonny Kate
- May 7, 2011: Ozone Falls
- Apr. 22, 2011: Mechanicsville
- Apr. 15, 2011: Revenue Hill
- Mar. 18, 2011: Irish Cut
- Mar. 11, 2011: Oneida
- Feb. 25, 2011: Dixie Lee Junction
- Feb. 18, 2011: Devil's Breakfast Table
- Feb. 11, 2011: Odd Fellows Cemetery
- Feb. 4, 2011: Inskip
- Jan. 8, 2011: Frost Bottom
- Dec. 31, 2010: Henley (Street) Bridge
- Dec. 10, 2010: Tuckahoe
- Dec. 3, 2010: Sharp's Ridge
- Nov. 26, 2010: Coker Creek
- Nov. 19, 2010: Sugarloaf Mountain
- Nov. 12, 2010: Mitchell W. Stout Memorial Bridge
- Nov. 5, 2010: Tazewell and New Tazewell
- Oct. 29, 2010: Mellinger Death Ridge
- Oct. 22, 2010: Farragut
- Oct. 15, 2010: Mascot
- Oct. 8, 2010: Allardt
- Oct. 1, 2010: Greenback
- Sep. 24, 2010: Boogertown
- Sep. 17, 2010: Chapman Highway
- Sep. 10, 2010: Niota
- Sep. 3, 2010: Neyland Stadium
- Aug. 27, 2010: Ten Mile
- Aug. 20, 2010: Heritage High School
- Aug. 13, 2010: Old Gray Cemetery
- July 29, 2010: Sweetwater
- July 23, 2010: I.C. King Park
- July 16, 2010: Stinking Creek
- July 9, 2010: Bean Station
- July 2, 2010: Loudoun and Loudon
- June 25, 2010: X-10, Y-12, K-25 Oak Ridge Plants
- June 18, 2010: Frozen Head State Park
- June 11, 2010: Buck Karnes Bridge