Near-record turnout at Hartsburg Pumpkin Fest

Getting into the town of Hartsburg Sunday for the annual Pumpkin Festival was not easy for the hundreds of families who poured into the town throughout the day.

The wait time around 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon was one hour, seven minutes from Highway 63 to Hartsburg.

First-time festivalgoer Sydney O'Hara said Google Maps painted a much different picture of what she thought the town would look like.

"We sat in traffic for maybe an hour and a half, which was completely unexpected. I thought because it was a smaller town I didn't think it would be this big,"

For two days out of the year, the town becomes a complicated web of tents, pumpkin patches, contests for kids, and places to eat and drink. Several veteran festivalgoers said they always come to Pumpkinfest each year, weather not withstanding.

"I don't really think the weather plays a part. I've come when it's really rainy, and it's just as busy," said festivalgoer Rebecca Havener.

A great deal of planning goes into making the festival happen. Planning committee member Donna Hilgedick said residents begin the planning process in February, when they start meeting to discuss what the festival will look like for the year. Once September hits, they meet more frequently.

Hilgedick says Pumpkinfest has helped the town make a name for itself.

"Our local businesses get busier throughout the year because people see they're here, and they come down and frequent them again," Hilgedick said.

Hilgedick said the event is well known in mid-Missouri. Its reputation has spread primarily through word of mouth, but also through the festival's website. She said this year's attendance number will likely break the 50,000 mark.

Aside from bringing recognition to the town, however, Hilgedick said the festival helps keep the town together.

"It just makes you feel like a family," Hilgedick said. "You know all the residents, so I can tell someone you know, so-and-so's booth is in so-and-so's yard, and they know what we're talking about because everybody knows them. It's nice, it's like a big family. You really enjoy it."

Residents say they plan to enjoy the next four months of quiet, before the planning of next year's festival begins.