HARTSBURG — Most days, the number of people in Hartsburg hovers around the estimated population of 108, but for two days in October that number swells.
The self-proclaimed “pumpkin patch of Missouri” is hosting the 19th annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival this weekend. About 8,000 attended the second festival in 1992 and by 2005 the numbers had risen to 50,000, according to the festival's website. The event was sponsored by the *Pumpkin Festival Committee.*
Kay Goddard, owner of Papa Hart’s Pickles in Columbia, was a first-time vendor this year. The family-owned business ran out of pickles by the end of the day Saturday.
“I think it’s because of the great weather,” Goddard said. “But this has been a great experience.”
Goddard also said she enjoyed sampling other vendors' products. Corn dogs, funnel cakes, pork tenderloin sandwiches, kettle corn, snow cones and chips-on-a-stick were among the food to choose from on Saturday.
“This event has really good food with lots of variety,” she said. “It's not just your ordinary festival food. It’s good community food. The catfish was the best I have ever had.”
Linda Keeney of Moberly came to the festival with her daughter as a late Mother’s Day gift.
“This is a great way to spend time with my daughter,” Keeney said. “I’m looking forward to the fresh-squeezed lemonade.”
Besides the food and drinks, the festival offered plenty of pumpkin-related activities including pumpkin carving, pumpkin pie eating competitions, hayrides in a pumpkin patch and pumpkin painting.
Landon Nahler, owner of Nahler Farms, sold his pumpkins at his "U-Pick Pumpkin Patch," which backed up to the festival ground. Guests were able to pick their own pumpkins right off his land.
“We planted 6,000 pumpkin plants on our land,” said Nahler. “Hopefully, we’ll sell out. By the looks of it, I think we will.”
Other booths included arts, crafts, hayrides, pony rides, live music and a straw maze. This year, the event had 252 vendors. According to a previous Missourian report, tens of thousands of pumpkins were on sale.
The event continues Sunday and is free and open to the public.