by Craig Dimitri

After the 2000 election, the parlance of “red” and “blue” states entered common usage.  But four states (three “blue”, and one in 2004, famously “red”) can be considered “orange states“.  Why?   Illinois produces about half a billion pounds of pumpkins a year.  And California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio each produce over 100 million pounds of pumpkins each year.  In 2005, the quartet of orange states alone, accounted for over 75%, of the 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkins America produced. 

Illinois is the deepest shade of orange, by a wide margin.  (Even though one of the largest and most influential counties in California is, in fact, Orange County.)  By producing 497 million pounds of pumpkins in 2005, its production alone accounted for nearly half of America’s pumpkin crop.  Illinois produced more pumpkins than the next three orange states – California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio – combined.

Pumpkin Politics

Pumpkin season and Halloween always coincide with campaign season, and with good reason.  Elections in America were traditionally (not exclusively, but often) held at the end of harvest season, when the crops for the year had already been brought in from the fields, and everything was in order.  In the ensuing centuries, America has become far, far less agrarian, but Election Day has retained its traditional place on the calendar: just after Halloween, in November.

Pumpkin power can be a big help in carrying a candidate to the White House.  Illinois, California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio carry almost as much weight politically as they do, when it comes to pumpkins.  The four total 117 electoral votes, more than a third of the 270 votes needed for victory, and they send 109 members to the U.S. House. 

In recent years, Bill Clinton carried all four orange states in 1992 and 1996, as did President George H.W. Bush in 1988.  Al Gore in 2000 and John F. Kerry in 2004 both carried all but Ohio.  We all know that if Kerry had won Ohio, he would be Presiden.  As for Gore, if he had won any of the 30 states carried by George W. Bush (Florida or otherwise) he would have been President.

The lesson to be learned for presidential contenders in 2008: red and blue isn’t enough; think orange, come Electoral College time.

All of these pumpkin-production facts come from the History Channel’s online exhibit on the History of Halloween, located at

Questions?  Comments?  Information?  You can contact Craig Dimitri at 







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