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The 57th Annual Barnesville Pumpkin Festival kicks off with opening ceremonies in Belmont County

T-L Photo/CARRI GRAHAM Jay Strous of Doan Ford, sponsor of the King Pumpkin trophy, presents Jeff Theil with the first place trophy after his winning entry, pictured behind Theil, weighed in at 2,195 pounds. Also pictured, from left, are Theil’s family 14-year-old Hunter, Michelle and 11-year-old Sara; festival Queen Lindsay Drumm; festival Mini Miss Sophia Jones; festival Princess Alexa Plumby; and Tim Rockwell, president of the festival committee.

BARNESVILLE — The 57th annual Barnesville Pumpkin Festival is officially underway after the opening ceremonies were held Thursday evening.

A crowd gathered as Belmont County officials and festival committee members kicked off the festival with its opening ceremonies which included a ribbon cutting ceremony, presentation of the festival queen, princess and mini miss, and presentation of the King Pumpkin trophy, second and third place trophies.

Nathan Shutt, meteorologist for WTOV, cut the ribbon to officially kick off the festivities. Following the ribbon-cutting, the royal court members were introduced who include 19-year-old festival Queen Lindsay Drumm of Heath, Ohio; 13-year-old Princess Alexa Plumby of St. Clairsville; and 9-year-old Mini Miss Sophia Jones of Barnesville.

The top three largest growers were then presented with trophies sponsored by Doan Ford. Taking home the King Pumpkin trophy for this year’s largest pumpkin was Jeff Theil of Dillonvale whose giant gourd weighed in at 2,195 pounds, a new state record. Theil was also presented the Founders Cup for the largest locally grown pumpkin, a trophy sponsored by the festival in honor of the Martin Schumacher family. In second place were Todd and Donna Skinner of Barnesville with a 2,078 pound pumpkin and third place went to Doug Kisamore of Diamond, Ohio, whose pumpkin weighed 2,003 pounds. All three pumpkins will remain on display throughout the festival.

John Rataiczak, the voice of the festival, said they are thrilled to be back this year after the festival was cancelled last year due to COVID-19.

“We all really missed last year, and I think last year made us all realize what a special event this is to Barnesville and Belmont County,” he said. “We really missed it, and people were really sad last year, but everyone was dedicated to making this come back.”

Rataiczak said the festival committee, who are all volunteers, have been tirelessly working the past two years to ensure the 2021 festival is the “best it’s ever been.” He said they made a few changes this year in order to ensure the safety of everyone in attendance. including spreading out the event to give people more space to move around.

He said there is more distance between the vendors so attendees can feel more comfortable and the areas won’t get too congested.

An addition to this year’s fest is the Eyes of Freedom, a traveling military tribute, which is located in front of Barnesville Middle School.

Festival President Tim Rockwell said he is hoping for a good turnout, and for the weather to cooperate this weekend. He pointed out that there was already a pretty good turnout Thursday with what looked like hundreds of people walking around the festival.

He said he is glad for the festival’s return and to witness all the smiling faces in attendance.

“It’s always been amazing to me that there are people who come back to the Pumpkin Festival but don’t come back for Christmas or Thanksgiving. It’s like a big family reunion, so it’s really nice to see everybody and that’s what all the hard work is about,” he said.

Rockwell said it takes the entire village to help put on the event with everyone pitching in.

“We’re very fortunate for all our sponsors and the whole town. Our street department helps clean the streets each night. If you come down here tomorrow, it will look like it does now. … The whole village, who lets us shut down the streets, the police department; it takes everybody,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, but well worth it to see how happy everyone here is.”

The festival will continue through Sunday and features games, amusement rides, entertainment and food. The parade will begin at 12:45 p.m. Saturday at the high school parking lot where it will travel west on main Street before heading north on Chestnut Street to the Victorian Mansion Museum.

Rataiczak encourages people to come out and get a picture in front of the giant pumpkins, something he considers the second greatest selfie in Ohio, coming in after the Ohio State University football stadium.

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