How-to list to help you enjoy the Pumpkin Festival experience

21st Hartsburg Pumpkin Fest, Oct. 13-14, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

HARTSBURG, Mo. - With crowds of 50,000 regularly attending the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival this weekend, finding a place to park and bringing home a big gourd can be a challenge. Here’s a how-to list of useful advice to better help you enjoy the experience.

Glance at a map before you go. There are four main routes into Hartsburg:

• Route A from U.S. Highway 63.

• River Road from Wilton.

• South Hart Creek Road, which connects to Christian School Road, south of Ashland.

• And Soft Pit Hill Road, which connects to Mount Pleasant Road, near the Beeline Conoco gas station along U.S. 63.

Be warned, drivers will not be permitted to drive north on Bush Landing Road, but they will be directed “around the block” to parking.

Park in festival-provided lots ... er, fields, actually

“If it’s dry, we’ll be able to park in the fields behind (south and west) of the ball diamond,” said festival volunteer Chad Martin.

If it rains? Well ... to be frank ... all hell breaks loose at this rain-or-shine event. If past history is any indicator, even deluges haven’t dampened the enthusiasm of eager festival-goers. Instead of storing cars in a nearby bean field, drivers are forced to parallel park along the gravel roads leading into Hartsburg — which means your family will get to enjoy a nice, long walk. But be forewarned, mud will happen. Shoes, ruined. Cars, stuck. Children, weeping. Dad’s back? Might not be normal again until Thanksgiving.

Bring home a big pumpkin

Sure, the festival serves up copious amounts of weird foods fried on sticks. But this is a PUMPKIN FESTIVAL, okay? So, if you want to pick a prize pumpkin, grower Jo Hackman said her family will have four Kawasaki mules available to help carry it back to your car. Baby strollers and Radio Flyer wagons are also popular strategies.

If you are disabled, know what services are provided

Some limited parking for people with disabilities is available at Peace United Church of Christ, and volunteers make an effort to transport all people with disabilities who need assistance. But the festival is organized and staffed by a team of unpaid volunteers. “Be patient,” encouraged Martin. “We try to serve everybody. But there’s only a handful of us.”

Ride your bike

Many casual riders can handle the 10-mile jaunt from the north Jefferson City trail head. Not only will you be able to enjoy the Katy Trail’s great natural beauty, you’ll also be able to rationalize eating more junk food.

Come early

This is just generally good advice in life. But you may also dodge some of the traffic, line up a decent parking spot and get a chance to actually see the town’s parade.

Take advantage of free kids’ activities

Mount Pleasant Baptist Church again is willing to provide a kid-friendly atmosphere across the street from the Katy Trail parking lot. A bounce house, games, prizes, popcorn and cotton candy will be free for childen. The church’s praise band will entertain the crowd. The church also will be providing amenities to parents, such as: a private spot for mothers to nurse their babies or change diapers; free water; and space for people to sit and relax.

Enjoy yourself, but be safe, too

The festival has earned a reputation as being a darn good party. In any situation where alcohol is present, common sense is appreciated.

“Watch your alcohol consumption,” said Boone County Det. Tom O’Sullivan. “Be polite and respectful. Everyone wants to have a good time, but people need to remember there are families and children around.”

That being said, this is the first year the Lion’s Club will be hosting a beer garden at the American Legion ball field.

Don’t miss the parade and musicians

If you have a yen for political stickers and candy, the parade starts at 9 a.m. Later on Saturday, three musical groups — Blackwater, the Roadhouse Band and Mick Byrd — will take the gazebo stage. On Sunday, four religious bands — the Ashland Christian Church band, Spiritual Strings, Out of the Valley and Praise to Him — will lift up the crowd.

Leave your fourwheeler at home

You may see many fourwheelers and golf carts at the festival, but don’t be fooled. Those are officially sanctioned vehicles to help the festival’s volunteers and law enforcement personnel do their jobs. Yours isn’t.

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