Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival: Home of pumpkin kings and novel crafts

Saturday, October 12, 2013 | 8:58 p.m. CDT; updated 12:19 a.m. CDT, Sunday, October 13, 2013
Pumpkins filled the town of Hartsburg for its 21st annual Pumpkin Festival. The festival drew pumpkin-lovers with a wide variety of pumpkin dishes, crafts and activities.

HARTSBURG — Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere — different types of pumpkins and shades of orange, even a few pumpkins made of wood. And for the real pumpkin lovers, there was even a booth selling pumpkin fudge.

Hartsburg kicked off its 21st annual pumpkin festival Saturday, turning all of the small downtown into "Missouri's Pumpkin Patch."

The festivities started with the crowning of the pumpkin king, Edwin Nichols. Then, there was a parade procession where past pumpkin kings rode on a tractor giving Tootsie Rolls to the public, while Nichols rode in a convertible Mustang.

After the procession was over, Nichols headed to his booth, which was actually an entire barn — the AND Haus — where he was grilling burgers and selling them to visitors. As people approached the AND Haus, the sound of German music was blaring on a portable radio, which sat on a stool beside a blowup scarecrow with a pumpkin head.

His mother, Lisa Nichols, was beaming with pride as she said, "I am the mother of the pumpkin king."

With a not-so subtle German quality, people may wonder if he has some German heritage. Edwin Nichols was born in Mannheim, Germany and his family moved to America when he was 1 year old. Yes, Hartsburg's Pumpkin King is from Germany.

In life outside the pumpkin festival, Edwin is a meat manager at a Schnucks branch in Jefferson City. His sister, Joyce Galbreath, says that he has contributed a lot to the Hartsburg community, from supplying food from his garden to donating his time for functions around town.

"(Pumpkin King) is an honor given to him by the community," Vivian Nichols, his wife, said.

Windmills and whirligigs

Aside from pumpkins and Pumpkin Kings, the festival brought some unique crafts to the streets of Hartsburg. One of them is work done by Bryan Smith who runs a business called Lost and Found Recycled Yard Art: Whirligigsand Windmills. He builds windmills and whirligigs from things that are thrown away.

It all started when he wanted to make his mother a present.

"She liked wind chimes, windmills and flower pots," Smith said.

He decided to combine all three things together as a present for his mother. Smith said people started knocking on her door asking about the windmill that sat outside her house.

Smith's windmills are made from bicycle wheels with handmade propellers attached to them. One was a repurposed lamp stand.

Things that are deemed as whirligigs are windmills with other functions.

"There are some that have sprinklers on them and others that light up," Smith said.

The booth next to Smith's also sold crafts that gave new life to old items. Bill McKenney repurposed old cameras, toasters and suitcases and transform them into robots.

McKenney moved from Maine to St. Louis when his mother got sick. He started doing art when he was trying to find a hobby to fill time. His mother was also an artist.

"It has been 45 years to get to this point," said McKenney. "It is an accumulation of careers that has gotten me to this point."

The robots require either welding or bolting or both depending on the materials he finds at yard sales and antique shops. McKenney has sold about 270 robots since he has started his business.

The festival continues Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Supervising editor is Zachary Matson.

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