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Milton’s annual Pumpkin Festival set to draw crowds


The Herald-Dispatch

MILTON, W.Va. — For one weekend a year, the sleepy little town of Milton makes a valiant run at being West Virginia’s biggest city.

The 32nd annual West Virginia Pumpkin Festival
in Milton from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
(Herald-Dispatch photo by Sholten Singer)

While there’s normally about 2,400 people who live in the city, this weekend, it’s more like 40,000 to 50,000 folks who make the migration to the Mud River for the 80-acre fall frolic that is the 32nd annual West Virginia Pumpkin Festival.

Come out and enjoy pumpkin spice everything as the festival, which has a theme this year of “Pumpkin Roads Take Me Home,” runs 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5-8, at West Virginia’s Pumpkin Park, off James River Turnpike in Milton.

Here’s a look at a bunch of fun ways to enjoy that pumpkin spice life in the shadow of the covered bridge at West Virginia Pumpkin Park this weekend.

Now that’s entertainment

Wafting through the Pumpkin Fest grounds are the delicious smells of apple butter and fried everything and the wonderful sounds of live music. There also is a full plate of entertainment each evening at the Outdoor Soundstage.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 5, the Southern gospel quartet, Forgiven, will bring their trademark Southern gospel four-part harmonies to the stage.

At 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 6, it’s bluegrass night with two of the area’s regionally traveling bluegrass units – Open Rail from Gallipolis, Ohio, and Kentucky’s Hammertowne, which is touring off its new record, “Hillbilly Heroes,” which made it into the Top 10 on the national bluegrass album charts.

At 7 p.m. Saturday Oct. 7, get a double-shot of young country with Beckley, West Virginia, native artist Taylor Wills followed by The Lincoln County-based five-man Southern and classic rock unit, The L.C. Band.

On Sunday, Oct. 8, you can hear a mix of local country and Christian artists with Jessi Crawford, The WV Wesleyan Old Time Group and The Thompsons.

History comes alive at Middle Creek Station

The West Augusta Volunteers’ Middle Creek Station has been a crowd favorite since day one of the Pumpkin Festival 32 years ago.

This year the living history encampment truly has early American history covered in living color as Reddog Monroe and his fellow living historians will be depicting history from 1755 to 1890 by letting folks explore their camps, which showcase period-correct personal items, guns and food used from 1750-1890s.

Headed up by such pioneering veterans as Monroe, Ron McClintock, Thadd McClung and Greg Cooper, the

Middle Creek Station crew, which has dozens of re-enactors of all ages, will feature activities such as apple-pressing, tomahawk throwing, lye-soap making, spinning, blacksmithing, leatherworking, fiddling, fur-trading, telegraph usage and storytellers, with re-enactors telling stories of historical figures of each era.

Sugar and spice and everything pumpkin nice

Channel your inner Katie Lee and fire up your baking A-game as the fest hosts its annual Pumpkin Bake-Off

Recipe Contest (breads, cakes, cookies, cupcake, pumpkin roll/log); a Pumpkin Pie Contest (traditional and non-traditional); a Pumpkin Dessert Contest (must have at least eight ounces of pumpkin to qualify); and – just added last year – Pumpkin Cupcake Contest.

Bring your creation to the fest between 8 and 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 7. All recipes must have a minimum of one cup of pumpkin to qualify.

Entrants must also supply a printed or typed recipe. There’s ribbons and cash money for the winners.

Call Regina Morgan at 304-389-1627 for more info.

More festival entertainment

In addition to the headliner concerts, a wide variety of additional entertainment is planned throughout Pumpkin Park.

On the outside stage enjoy a wide variety of kids entertainment including inflatables, Zappo the Clown Magic Show, the National Guard’s Obstacle Course, Heroes4Higher, Soundstations DJ/karaoke, Mark Abbati (The Living Statue), Weaving Demonstrations (with student hands-on experience), maple syrup making, chainsaw carving and an agricultural tent with crop growing, cow milking, bee tending, and more, as well as daily strolling entertainment including musicians The Blues Brothers, Tommy Griffith and Emily Davis, who has a new record out.

Around the grounds enjoy such things as the Hillbilly Zipline, Birds of Prey, an Exotic Petting Zoo with a baby kangaroos, a grist mill (where whole kernel corn is made into corn meal), a growth of fruits and vegetables exhibit, helicopter rides, remote helicopter demonstrations, a hay pyramid and maze, the Pumpkin Hill slide and more.

Back again for a second year for the kids is Jurassic Kingdom, a dinosaur exhibit that lets kids go back in time to see what it would have been like to see a dinosaur hatching from the egg, as well as juvenile dinosaurs and a full grown, 13-foot-tall moving, walking and growling Tyrannosaurus Rex.

There will also be a Firefighters Show with interactive educational activities including a water cannon shot, a smoke house crawl, competitions, rescues and more.

Check out the full list of dozens of educational and interactive exhibits at

Checking out the makers

No Pinterest fails here – it’s all top-notch country crafting under the big top tents as the Pumpkin Fest rivals any regional fest for its quality and quantity of juried artisans and crafters.

Lois Mack chairs the committee with Cindy Hinkle, Dana Walters, Kathy Cremeans, Steve Hinkle and Jim Mack, who also volunteers to run the wiring for the fest.

Mack said this year the fest has about 80 different arts and crafts vendors taking up 102 spaces and, as always, there’s a high quality and wide variety.

Mack, a potter who has been firing pots of late that include horse and human hair, said they’ve seen the trend of the fest drawing in a good number of primitive artists who make things in the old ways.

And whether it is glass blowing, crocheting, knitting or tie-dying, a number of artists also will be making at the fest and sharing knowledge of their craft with the crowds.

“There’s a lot of the primitive artists that are really neat, and there seems to be a lot more people into primitive arts,” Mack said. “One of the good things too is quite a few of the vendors who are coming are also demonstrating at the show this year.”

Bridging the gap

One of the cool things on the 80-acre West Virginia Pumpkin Park grounds is the Milton Covered Bridge, Cabell County’s only covered bridge.

Bring your cellphone and take a “bridgie.” Built in 1879, the bridge originally spanned the Mud River by Milton Middle School. One of only 17 covered bridges left in West Virginia, the bridge underwent $700,000 in renovations and was brought back to life at the Pumpkin Fest grounds as a walking bridge.

Stroll over and check out the pond, bridge and at the island check out the new railcar that was donated last year by Norfolk and Southern.

Giant pumpkin auction

Size does matter at the Pumpkin Fest as West Virginia’s most watered giant gourds are on the auction block at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 8. Stop by throughout the fest to see the mammoth pumpkins (many topping 1,000 pounds) on display and then be there at 4 p.m. Sunday to see local business folks battle to take home a giant pumpkin, all to raise money for the park’s scholarships.

This year’s front-runner for biggest pumpkin is a state record, 1,421.5-pounder grown by Fort Gay farmer Bob Cyrus, who recently beat the state record with this year’s gourd.

On Sunday, there’s also the 4:30 p.m. auction of donated arts and crafts and items from local businesses. That money too goes to the Pumpkin Festival scholarships.

Go online at for more info about the scholarships.

All things pumpkin

So you’re not blessed with a prize-winning recipe – you can still enjoy all things pumpkin at the 2017 Pumpkin Park Gift Shop.

Find just about every kind of cool pumpkin item from Blenko Glass pumpkins (don’t eat those) to pumpkin edibles like cookies, ice cream, cakes and logs, and lots of other pumpkin-themed items including clothes, cookbooks, coffee cups, lunch bags and more.

And get a warm fuzzy plunking down some money since all proceeds are for the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival’s college scholarship fund.

If you’re gourd intolerant, you’re still in luck as there’s a ton of locally flavored vendors from the FFA grilled corn booth to the Optimist Club corn dogs.

While in Milton

There’s plenty to do if you find yourself out Milton way and want to hit a couple other hotspots in the city.

Behind the old Middle School, Cooper Family Farms operates its seasonal corn maze.

Now in its 17th season, the maze is open Monday through Thursday by reservation, and then 5 to 10 p.m. Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays and 1 to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is $8 for ages 4 and up, free for those 3 and under.

The maze this year honors WWII hero Woody Williams, the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor. Go online at for more info.

Also, just a stone’s throw from the Pumpkin Park is the historic family-owned Blenko Glass, which is open daily. Don’t miss the upstairs museum where you can see the CMA Awards and some amazing stained glass art, as well as glass being made in the factory and special deals in the shops.

They also have a special make-your-own-glass-pumpkin class with three sessions Friday, Oct. 6, at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Call 304-743-9081 or 877-425-3656 to sign up. Go online at for more info on Blenko.

It is always fun to stop by the massive Milton Flea Market (one of the region’s largest), and check out some great live bluegrass music at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 7, from the West Virginia family band Daniel Lilly and the Lilly Mountaineers at the Mountaineer Opry House.

Go online at for more info on the Opry House.

Dave Lavender is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveLavenderHD.

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