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story.lead_photo.caption Devlyn Creason, 14, tosses a pumpkin to be put out for people to buy at the 2018 pumpkin festival in Hartsburg. The festival has hundreds of pumpkins available for attendees to purchase.

Get ready to indulge in all things pumpkin, a plethora of vendors and the chance to win some prizes — the countdown for the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival this weekend is nearing zero.

Since its creation in 1991 by a group of eight known as the Hartsburg Bike and Social Club, the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival has quickly exploded into an autumn destination for many in Mid-Missouri. Each year, the event pulls in upward of 40,000 people — at least 375 times more than its population of 107.

Jeri Cooper, treasurer and parade organizer for the festival, said she believes the festival this weekend will attract 40,000-45,000 people as in years' past, despite any minor challenges they've had to face with floodwaters over the summer. She said they are currently monitoring the floodwaters and will do so until the day of the event to determine if parking areas need to be adjusted.

Jo Hackman, with Hackman Farms, told the News Tribune in September she was able to get pumpkins planted in July, but it's "hard to tell" what they have. She said she felt optimistic about the pumpkin crop and was confident they would have enough to pick for the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival.

The two-day festival will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday with the annual parade beginning near the Katy Trail entrance in Hartsburg. The parade continues up 2nd Street, turns left onto Main Street and travels back down 1st Street, ending near the Lions Club Park.

Have a cute child? The annual Cutest Baby Contest will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Volunteer Park Gazebo. Anyone interested in competing for the titles can still register the day of the festival, but only a certain amount of children are allotted for each age group. Babies and children ages 5 and younger can be entered across six categories. An entry fee of $5 is due at check-in, according to the festival's website.

More than 240 vendor booths open at 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, and will include family-friendly activities such as face painting, a petting zoo and bounce houses. Cooper said there will be a spread of 175 different types of booths — something for everyone.

Live entertainment will follow the Cutest Baby Contest on Saturday and the 9 a.m. church service Sunday at the main stage until 4 p.m. Two bands will play each day, including Pigweed Vintage Country from 2-4 p.m. Saturday and duo Of Sea and Stone from 10-1 p.m. Sunday.

For any newcomers, Cooper stressed the importance of adhering to the specific directions to the event, "otherwise you are not able to get in to the festival." Entrance into and exit out of the event shouldn't take more than 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic, she said.

"It's important to follow the routes that are publicized," she said. "If any roads are closed or anything like that, we'll have deputies or signs up showing people where to go."

Visitors en route to the festival can follow Route A onto Old U.S. 63, continue onto Mount Pleasant Road then turn right onto Soft Pit Road to Bottom Road until they reach Bush Landing Road on the right, according to directions on the festival's website.

In July, the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival was awarded the "Best Festival" Viewer's Choice award from The Networks of Mid-Missouri.

Cooper said she is proud they are "able to create a festival so many people can enjoy safely and have fun. We're absolutely very proud."

For more information, visit www.hartsburgpumpkinfest.com.

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