HARTSBURG — Though welcoming 50,000 people into a town with a population of 103 might seem unrealistic, organizers of the annual Pumpkin Festival in Hartsburg aren't ruling it out.
With 266 vendors and "plenty" of pumpkins, Pat Edelen, president of the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival Committee, said the event Saturday and Sunday could match the all-time high attendance of 50,000 people set in 2005 — if the weather cooperates.
Each year, Edelen said, the committee looks at the accomplishments and significance of people in the community to determine a pumpkin king.
"It’s somebody who’s been very active in the community and the festival and is a very upholding citizen of the Hartsburg community," she said.
Ron Skiles, a sergeant with the Boone County Sheriff's Department who lives in south Columbia, was named this year's pumpkin king.
The distinction traditionally has gone to residents of Hartsburg or the immediate area. "I’m neither, so I was honored by that," Skiles said.
Skiles has helped manage security and traffic control at the festival for 20 years.
"He’s always helped with patrolling the town itself and directing traffic, so he’s been a very active part of the festival all these years," Edelen said.
Skiles is retiring from the Boone County Sheriff's Department, so this year's festival will be his last.
In addition to leading the parade Saturday, Skiles will be doing what he loves best — working with people.
"I’ll do the king thing in the morning at about 9 for the parade, " he said. "Then, I’ll go back to dealing with traffic and the people."
According to the festival's website, free events will run from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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