Pumpkin festival on tap

BARNESVILLE-The 48th annual Barnesville Pumpkin Festival will be a mixture of new and old traditions, officially beginning Thursday, with four days of family-friendly shows, contests and entertainment – free of charge. Jim Forbes, news anchor at WTRF-TV 7, will cut the ribbon at 5 p.m., followed by the presentation of the “King Pumpkin” trophy for 2011’s largest pumpkin.

This will be the second year for a commemorative crock raffle after last year’s successful entree. Local artist Luke Johnson of Johnson Pottery has created another one-of-a-kind crock for the 2011 festival. The crock is on display in the Barnesville Enterprise window, 166 E. Main St., until the festival begins. Festival-goers will be able to see it next to Patrick’s Restaurant at the four corners. Raffle tickets are $1 each or six tickets for $5, available at the Enterprise office, from festival committee members or at the information booth during the festival.

After a brief hiatus from the festival, the quilt show is back this year and will be on display in the basement of the First United Methodist Church, 123 W. Church St. The theme will be “Fall/Autumn,” and quilters wishing to enter can pick up forms at Karen’s Quilt and Craft Connection, 119 W. Main St., or Chel’s Hair Salon, 125 W. Main. Registration and drop-off will be held in the church basement Wednesday from noon until 6 p.m. The show will open on Thursday at 10 a.m. and close on Sunday, Sept. 25, at 5 p.m.

The popular “Fiddle, Mandolin and Banjo Contest” returns with a new twist: a jam session before and after the contest next Sunday afternoon. The “Cabin Boys +,” Steven Moore from “Almost Famous” and other local musicians will be playing on center stage during registration from 11 a.m. to noon, Sunday, Sept. 25. At the end of the competition, all contestants will be invited to join in for the post-contest show. Trophies and cash prizes are given to the first- and second-place winners in each instrument category and in the children’s competition.

Though the Pumpkin Festival officially begins on Thursday, a crowd will gather Wednesday from 6-9 p.m. to watch the annual pumpkin weigh-in. Last year’s winner tipped the scales at 1,479 pounds and was grown by Bill Neptune of New Concord. Neptune also grew the record-breaking 2009 “King Pumpkin,” a whopping 1,503 pounds. The growers receive $1 per pumpkin-pound and the “King Pumpkin” trophy. The winning squash is auctioned to a local business Saturday night for display. Its seeds are harvested with half going to the grower and half bagged and sold as a festival fund-raiser.

Other traditional activities will include the parade Saturday at 2 p.m.; the 5K run and walk Saturday at 8:30 a.m. (registration begins at 6:45 a.m.); and the pie-baking contest Thursday at 3 p.m., followed by the pie eating contest at 4 p.m. There’s a wide range of interests covered with the various competitions: a festival queen pageant, tall-tale telling, horseshoes, pets, “Pumpkin Mascot,” “Pumpkin Baby,” beards and mustaches, classic cars, tobacco spitting, hog calling and fudge. Specifics on where and when all activities will take place can be found at www.barnesvillepumpkinfestival.com.

There won’t be any shortage of food at the festival. Aside from standard fair food vendors, fair-goers can feast on a variety of pumpkin fare: pie, rolls, ice cream and fried dough among others. Several organizations also will be selling meals and treats: the Chamber of Commerce at the Pumpkin Wagon; Senior Citizens Center on E. Main; Olney Friends School booth; First Presbyterian Church on N. Chestnut; and Catholic Women’s Club on W. Main.

Entertainment such as Lacy and Her Attitude Band, the Cabin Boys +, Buck & Wing, the Mayhughs/Forlorn River Band, Wills Creek Band and the Schuler Family are scheduled for the center and pumpkin stages, and WBNV will broadcast live throughout the festival.

Twenty-five committees of 200 volunteers are making this year’s festival possible. It has grown from 1964’s “Fall Fair” in a church basement with an attendance of 300 to a nationally recognized event attended by more than 100,000. All aspects of Barnesville are represented and support each other-residents, schools, businesses, churches and local government-making the Pumpkin Festival itself a lasting community tradition.

Valenti can be reached at gvalenti@timesleaderonline.com.