SPRINGFIELD — Hoping to highlight his district's role as the top pumpkin producing region in the nation, a state lawmaker from Tazewell County wants to make pumpkin pie the official state pie.
State Rep. Keith Sommer, R-Morton, introduced the legislation in anticipation of his hometown's annual pumpkin festival, which was held last weekend.
"I recognize we have much more serious business to do as a state. But in celebration of the festival, I thought it was appropriate," Sommer said Wednesday.
If approved, the official designation for pumpkin pie will join other state symbols, such as the official state snack food of popcorn.
Sommer said he enjoys a slice of pumpkin pie, primarily because he knows much of the canned pumpkin distributed in the U.S. is processed at the Nestle USA Libby's plant in Morton.
"I like pie in general," Sommer said.
According to a proclamation issued Sept. 12 by Gov. Pat Quinn, pumpkins are a nearly $33 million industry in Illinois, with more than 90 percent of all canned pumpkin in the U.S. being produced in Tazewell and nine other Illinois counties.
The proclamation, presented to officials at the pumpkin festival, designated Sept. 13 as Pumpkin Pie Day in Illinois. Quinn noted there are few foods "more purely American than pumpkin pie."
"With its connections to rural life, family and hard work, pumpkin pie symbolizes the values that are close to the heart of all Illinoisans," the proclamation notes.
John Ackerman, who farms about 60 acres on the edge of Morton, said the wetter-than-average summer has not affected this year's crop. While farmers typically can count on about 23 tons of pumpkins per acre, he said this year's haul could be as much as 30 tons per acre.
He said making pumpkin the official state pie makes sense.
"It's the only reasonable choice for the No. 1 pumpkin growing state in the nation," Ackerman said.
No other state has designated pumpkin as its official state pie.
Florida's official pie is the key lime. Vermont's top pie is apple, while Maine's official pie is blueberry.
Among non-fruit pies, Massachusetts honors the Boston cream pie and Oklahoma observes the pecan pie as its official dessert.
Louisiana also has an official pie, but it is a deep fried meat-filled pie.
Sommer said he anticipates the proposal will be debated next spring.
"This isn't an issue of emergency," Sommer said.
The legislation is House Bill 6292.