HARTSBURG — Before the pumpkin painting, before the straw maze, before the pony rides and before thousands descend on the small town of Hartsburg for its annual pumpkin festival, workers labor for weeks to move countless pumpkins from the farm into town.
Stomping through 40 acres on a brisk afternoon in late September, Marlon Hackman, J.P. Craig, Drace Johnson, Tim Mumpower and Ryan Womack cut through pumpkin stalks to load them onto a tractor. Two of the men at a time team together to carry the bulbous fruits. From this patch they pick the "Big Max" pumpkins, which Hackman says could weigh between 50 pounds and 225 pounds.
Mosquitoes flurry in the air as each pumpkin is lifted from the spot where it has been growing since mid-June. After the tractor is packed and the pumpkins are stacked carefully, the workers take a seat wherever they can find one for the block-long ride back to town. Those who attend the upcoming festival will soon browse through thousands of these pumpkins.
The 17th annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival starts Saturday with a 9 a.m. parade.