Missourian video by Justin Stewart

HARTSBURG — An absence of rain earlier this fall was good for pumpkins, but this week's showers are making it tough to harvest the crop for the Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival.

The festival, which runs Saturday and Sunday in the small river town south of Columbia, typically expects more than 15,000 people each day. Although at least 150 vendors will be on hand, the main attraction is the pumpkins.

“Right now we haven’t been able to get all of the pumpkins we want out,” said Jo Hackman, owner of Hackman Farms, the main supplier of pumpkins for the festival.

“We probably have enough for tomorrow, but it’s Sunday that we’re worried about," she said.

Hackman said she and her family don’t like to harvest when the fields are too wet because the conditions can tear up their equipment. Since the forecast is looking a little better Saturday, she’s hoping luck will turn the situation around.

“We’re hoping that if the rain subsides, the ground will firm up and and tomorrow we can harvest some early in the morning,” she said on Friday.

According to the National Weather Service, Saturday’s forecast will be mostly cloudy with a 40 chance of showers after 1 a.m., and a 30 percent chance of rain on Sunday during the day. The likelihood of rain increases to 70 percent Sunday night.

Donna Hilgedick, president of the Pumpkin Festival Committee, said it’s hard to predict how many people will venture out with a less-favorable forecast, but the festival will go on, rain or shine.

“In the years past with the rain, we still get a good crowd," Hilgedick said. "It just might be 30,000-to-40,000 instead of the 50,000 we get for good weather.”

Hilgedick said festival attendees should be prepared to sit in some traffic, but volunteers and deputy officers will help direct them to available parking spots. (If you're looking for routes to the festival, check this map.)

Trams will be running for people with disabilities, as well as those who must park a long distance away from the festival. The tram will drop guests off at the entrance.

She said that this year’s festival will feature its traditional straw maze, multiple music acts and about 170 food and craft vendors. The festival will also have cartoon caricature paintings, children’s games and multiple competitions such as the Pumpkin King contest.

Vendor Chris Theerman, of Cowboy Chris’ BBQ Sauce from Wright City, Missouri, said he isn’t too worried about the weather.

“When it’s been like this in the past, I’ve been surprised how many people turned out,” Theerman said.

He said he keeps returning because of the hospitable atmosphere.

“The committee treats me like I live here,” he said. “One man lets me park on his property, and he seems excited to see me every year."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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