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story.lead_photo.caption News Tribune fileWhile some festival-goers took photos with the piles of pumpkins at the 2019 Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival, others carefully picked through to find the perfect one.

It finally feels like the return of fall as one of Mid-Missouri's most beloved traditions returns this weekend after having to cancel last year.

The Pumpkin Festival runs 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, potentially bringing around 40,000 people to the tiny village of Hartsburg.

The festival committee made the decision to cancel the 2020 event due to the pandemic. It was only the second time the event had to be canceled in the festival's 30-year history; the first was 1993 due to severe flooding.

Festival parade chairperson Jeri Cooper said it was tough canceling in 2020, but organizers are excited to be back and hoping for an even bigger event this year.

"I don't expect it to be any smaller," Cooper said. "It's supposed to be beautiful weather so we have actually been anticipating it may be the biggest crowd we've seen in a while.

"People are wanting to go back out, and it's a tradition for many of our festival-goers. They're wanting to get back to normalcy."

While some vendors chose not to participate this year because of COVID-19, Cooper said the 2021 event will be pretty comparable to past years with the exception of the baby show, which was canceled.

Per usual, the massive festival takes over the entire town — which has a population of around 100 — with live music and entertainment; plenty of fall festival foods and treats; more than 100 vendors peddling crafts, jewelry and fall decorations; and, of course, a plethora of pumpkins.

A parade kicks off the festivities at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Though skies are expected to be mostly clear Saturday with highs in the mid-80s, the festival does carry on rain or shine; a 40 percent chance of rain is forecast for Sunday.

With such an influx of traffic, Cooper asked attendees to be patient when it comes to parking, most of which is in neighboring fields, and conditions will vary depending on the weather this week.

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.

Shuttles are typically available between the parking area and the festival.

For more information and a map for parking, visit www.hartsburgpumpkinfest.com.

"Come enjoy the festivities and help us celebrate this little town," Cooper said.

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