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Pumpkin Festival draws crowd

Pumpkin Festival draws crowd

October 10th, 2011 in News

Brad and Tara Van Loo of Jefferson City take a snack break with their three children at the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival on Sunday. From left, they are Berkley, 3; Cambri, 4; and Brodyn, 7. The couple said their children's favorite attractions were the corn maze and pony rides.

Photo by Gerry Tritz

The Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival draws people from across the state, but members of the 200-resident town were among those enjoying the annual event on Sunday.

Natalia Owens hoisted her 1-year-old daughter up to the table at the Midwest Woodworker's Association booth, helping her hammer the wheels into a wooden car.

"I love it," Natalia said. "We've had so much fun."

Although her husband, Jeffrey, has lived in town for about seven years, this is her first year in town and her first year at the festival. "Having time to spend as a family is really great," she said.

This year's 20th annual festival was much like the previous 19. One noticeable addition this year was helicopter rides for $30-$35. The rides weren't officially part of the festival, but a helicopter company from Lake of the Ozarks rented farmland for the weekend, said Nancy Grant, one of the festival's organizers.

She said attendance for the festival was at near-record levels. Boone County deputies estimated 30,000 people came on Saturday. Grant said she hadn't yet heard a Sunday estimate, but she thought the crowds were around 20,000. That 50,000 would be slightly down from three or four years ago, when the crowd estimate was a record 55,000.

Other than pumpkins, food is a main drawing point at the booths, which line three of the city's main streets. Vendors sold typical fair food such as fried potatoes, smoked sausages and deep fried Twinkies and Oreos. Cinnamon-roasted nuts, kettle corn and pork rinds were also some of the favorite eats.

Some items, such as water and snow cones, ranged in price from free to several dollars, depending on where you got them.

Grant said the only problems she was aware of this year were two women who collapsed from insulin problems relating to diabetes. They were treated at the scene and released, she said.

Also, three car fires occurred, including a Cadillac Escalade that caught fire at the tail pipe after the car parked in the festival's giant corn field parking lot. The car's back half burned, and the car needed to be towed, she said.

Grant said this 20th anniversary of the festival marks the last for three of the original organizers: herself, Jo Hackman and Ganelle Cunningham.

After this year, they're turning over the reins to the younger generation in the community. She said the organizers who will take over have watched them for several years, and she hopes they'll keep the festival true to its roots, without dramatic changes.

"All the hard work, it'll be on the shoulders of the younger people," she said shortly after the festival. "Us three will be sitting on our porches watching the traffic go by next year."