Pumpkin Festival brings out kids
MILTON -- Each year, thousands of area elementary students make the journey to Milton for kids' days at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival.
About 3,000 visited Thursday and another 2,000 are expected Friday, with each getting a pumpkin to decorate and a chance to experience a little education and history.
Meredith Thompson, a Pre-K teacher at the Playmate's Child Care Center in Guyandotte, said for her kids, little things like seeing applesauce and cider made go a long way. And, it's a treat for her to see the kids have fun.
"The expression on their face when the pumpkin is put in front of them to decorate is priceless," Thompson said, noting that the kids have been counting seeds and weighing pumpkins in the classroom in preparation for the visit.
The festival also had the traditional crafters and re-enactors from the Civil War era. Those involved said seeing so many children interested in history is very satisfying.
"I started into this as a hobby for me and the camaraderie," said Bill Kwolek from western Pennsylvania. He portrays James Butler Hickok, better known as "Wild Bill." "But after doing some of these living history events, I enjoy the aspect of teaching children and adults."
While he and a few others portrayed U.S. Marshals, there was another era of the military represented through The Wall That Heals, a traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. An opening ceremony was held as students arrived Thursday morning.
The Wall That Heals exhibition features a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is approximately 250 feet in length and, like the original memorial, is erected in a chevron shape. There are more than 58,000 names on the wall.
The trailer which carries the wall serves as a mobile museum and contains display cases containing photos of service members whose names are on the wall. There also is a map of Vietnam and a chronological overview of the conflict in Vietnam.
It could one of the things the first-grade students from Ona Elementary write about, said teacher Karen Estep. Though her children may only write a few sentences, she said she wants to help them express their experience.
"For first-graders, it can very hard to verbalize," Estep said. "They are just so excited."
The excitement isn't limited to the kids. Estep said she and her teaching colleagues are grateful to have Pumpkin Park close by and that festival organizers have remained dedicated to providing children the pumpkin experience.
"This is such a great environment for the kids, and it's wonderful that schools can come," she said. "It's wonderful this is in Cabell County."
It's also a treat for middle and high school students, particularly those in Future Farmers of America and 4-H programs. Jonathan Black, a junior from Cabell Midland High School, who serves as president of the FFA program there, said the Pumpkin Festival is the favorite time of year for the students.
They roast corn, assist the Lincoln County FFA students who make sorghum, help throughout the park and work in the FFA/4-H kitchen.
It's a lot of work, but Black said they get to show all those elementary students how much fun the experience can be.
"It's very important for us to show them it's fun and a good opportunity when they get to high school," he said. "We're out here working for what we earn."