The West Virginia Pumpkin Festival kicked off Thursday in Milton bringing the best of Autumn feasts and old fashioned family fun to the Mountain State.
The West Virginia Pumpkin Festival has been a tradition in Milton since 1986. President of the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, Bill Kelley, says the largest pumpkin this year is over 1,000 lbs. Proceeds from the pumpkin size contest provides scholarships for students.
Kelley says the festival began small, but grows every year. Now the event sits on 86 acres. To kick off the festival right, students on field trips flooded the event. Seven-year-old Carleigh Bandle from South Point Elementary School explains that students are supposed to decorate pumpkins, have fun, and eat pumpkin ice cream. She adds, "that is what a pumpkin festival is all about".
From pumpkin ice cream to pumpkin pie, there's something for everyone and it's raking in a different kind of dough. Kelley says there are 130 arts and crafts booths and 250 local businesses at the festival. Co-owner of Old Primitive Shed, Darlene Heaster, is at the pumpkin festival for the first time as a vendor. She thought it would be good for business because with all the people in one location it's easy advertising and a good way to gain new customers.
It's not just vendors getting a boost in their bottom line. Milton resident, Leslie Riedell, says so many people come to town that you will see traffic lined up this weekend. She says the town almost comes to a complete standstill and that is great because you can feel the energy in the town.
Kelley expects the pumpkin festival to attract as many as 60,000 visitors. He says those people will spend money in the area through things like buying gasoline, eating in restaurants, and lodging.
The event runs through Sunday. It costs $7 per adult to get in. All proceeds go back into making an even better Pumpkin Festival in years to come. Kelley says they are hoping to make enough to do some re-paving before next year.