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Pumpkin Festival returns to Barnesville

On Wednesday night, the evening before the start of the festival, the annual King Pumpkin Weigh-In is held right on Main Street in the middle of the village.

BARNESVILLE — Thousands will flock to the village’s celebration of fall this week, with the annual Pumpkin Festival running Thursday through Sunday.

The festival officially opens at 5 p.m. Thursday with a ribbon-cutting, but the main event of Wednesday evening is the King Pumpkin Weigh-In, when the largest of the gourds entered in the festival is announced.

Tim Rockwell, festival president, said anticipation of the event has been high. He said the weather this summer was poor for growing pumpkins with heavy rain, but the growers have their secrets and take precautions to protect and nurture their entries.

“Some of them build tents and greenhouses over their pumpkins,” he said. “It’s a big secret — hush-hush right up to the weigh-in.”

Barnesville residents Todd and Donna Skinner set a state record two years ago by entering a 2,150-pound pumpkin.

Village storefronts are getting into the spirit as the festival approaches, with fall and pumpkin-themed displays at many locations, including attorney Michael Shaheen’s office.

“We just decorated our windows in my office in Barnesville,” Shaheen said. “I had gone like most other non-Barnesville residents go each year — you get something to eat and walk around. I was out there a couple days before and I saw the effort put forth, especially by the committee, but everybody in that town. It kind of hearkened back to when I grew up in Adena and there was the St. Casimir Festival and everybody pitched in.

“I find it not only a wonderful experience, I think it’s very refreshing that in this day and age, a community works together to put together such a big project for such a good cause.”

He commended Jill Stephen, director of the Barnesville Area Chamber of Commerce, for her work in promoting the event and the businesses involved.

“She is phenomenal,” he said. “I’ve been a part of a lot of business organizations. She runs that like it’s a chamber in New York City. She constantly hustles and promotes her people.”

Stephen credits the festival for putting Barnesville on the map for many.

“Everyone is gearing up for it. You’re starting to see everyone get their pumpkins and cornstalks and everything ready,” she said.

Students from the Barnesville High School art club will be painting the windows of some businesses, she said.

“The chamber wagon is getting ready for their ice cream and pumpkin pie and pumpkin doughnuts to sell,” she said. “Of course we’re waiting anxiously for Wednesday night and the pumpkin weigh-in. Everyone is preparing their floats for the Giant Pumpkin Parade Saturday.”

Another committee member, Susan Lapham, said nearly 100,000 people typically attend the event during the course of its four days.

“I know Saturday is packed. We have the big parade on Saturday,” she said.

She said the eight parade grand marshals this year are the living World War II veterans from Barnesville. They are John Anderson, Bob Harris, Guy Atkinson, brothers Homer and Paul Luyster, Francis Plumly and Richard Steele. Henry Gallagher, who died recently, will be represented by his wife, Georgie.

Also, to the delight of many, Sam Shuman, Dale Frazier and David Bishop of the band Kiddog will be reuniting to perform once again at the festival. Shuman, a former teacher in the Barnesville area who now resides in Columbus, said they started the band in 1976.

“We had a lot of good opportunities. We got to record an album in Nashville and a song on the radio, ‘Fly Like the Wind,’ that was very popular in the Ohio Valley. We got to play in … Jamboree In The Hills,” he said. “At the Pumpkin Festival we’re doing primarily our own songs.

“We stopped playing to go back to school in the late ’70s,” he said. “This’ll be the first time we’ve gotten back together to play in 40 years almost. We’re real excited.”

He said the and members have many good memories of the Pumpkin Festival.

“David Bishop and I grew up in Barnesville,” Shuman said. “We played the pumpkin festival quite a bit back in the ’70s. … I’m excited the people still remember our music.”

The festival will feature a car show with almost 70 vehicles pre-registered as of last week, according to Jayda Baker, one of the organizers. She said about 300 dash plaques and small trophies are given out during the event, as well as 75 trophies and the Best of Show award.

“As long as the weather’s good, we should have a good turnout,” she said, adding that car enthusiasts have come from far afield. “We get a lot of them from Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia. They come from different states. We get a variety.”

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