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Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival presses on despite forecast

Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival presses on despite forecast

October 11th, 2018 by Philip Joens in Local News

Farmer Jo Hackman's pumpkins await picking Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, at the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival.

Photo by Philip Joens /News Tribune.

The Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival will press on this year, come rain or high water.

Organizers said showers forecast for the weekend and potential flooding from the nearby Missouri River could impact attendance, but the event will press on Saturday and Sunday.

"Rain always hampers attendance," organizer Jeri Cooper said. "With the rain, we don't know how it will be affected."

Forecasts for the weekend predict a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday afternoon in Hartsburg, according to the National Weather Service. Rain chances increase to 60 percent Sunday.

The NWS issued a flood warning for Jefferson City that will begin Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, the NWS forecast the Missouri River to crest in areas around Jefferson City at 26.1 feet Saturday morning. Both Missouri River levees in Hartsburg hold water up to 32 feet high, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman David Kolarik said.

Jo Hackman owns Hackman Farms in Hartsburg and served previously as a festival organizer. Like Cooper, Hackman does not think flooding poses a serious threat to the festival.

The Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival began in 1991 as a celebration of local pumpkin farmers and quickly became a weekend full of entertainment and crafts.

As many as 40,000 people could visit Hartsburg during the two-day festival, Cooper said.

Festivities kick off Saturday morning with a parade that begins near the Katy Trail entrance in Hartsburg, goes up 2nd Street, crosses Main Street, travels back down 1st Street and ends near a local baseball field. About 20 floats will appear in the parade, Cooper said.

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A cutest baby contest will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Volunteer Park gazebo. Registration costs $5 and begins at 9:30 a.m. Babies ranging in age from 0-3 months to children 4-5 years old can participate. Prizes will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place winners in each group.

Vendor booths will open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. About 150 vendors with 200 total booths will be at the event, Cooper said.

Visitors can find parking by following Route A onto Old Highway 63, then following Mount Pleasant Road onto Soft Pit Road and Bottom Road until they hit Bush Landing Road, according to directions on the festival's website. When leaving the festival, attendees will be directed onto River Road until they hit Route M in Wilton and get back onto U.S. 63 in Ashland.

Live music will begin at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. A church service in the Volunteer Park Gazebo will begin at 9 a.m. Sunday, Cooper said.

For much of the summer, drought gripped large portions of Missouri, including Hartsburg. The drought gave Hackman her worst tomato crop ever, but she said her pumpkin crop turned out excellent.

"A month ago we didn't think we'd have anything," Hackman said. "They're a dark green, so until they start turning, it's hard to tell what you have."

While her pumpkin crop turned out well, her giant pumpkins did not turn out as big as they sometimes do, Hackman said. Hackman attributed this to the drought.

"Our great big ones, they're not as big as they could be," Hackman said. "They've got some good size to them, but they're not the monsters we usually grow."

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