Pumpkin Festival wraps up in Milton
MILTON -- Milton ended its four-day run of playing host to thousands of festival fanatics as the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival came to a close Sunday.
The cooler temperatures and forecasts calling for a chance of rain may have prevented attendance levels from setting a new record at West Virginia Pumpkin Park, but the 27th edition of the Pumpkin Festival was still deemed a success by festival president Bill Kelley.
"Our goal every year is to offer more things for people to do and make their experience more enjoyable, so we think we've achieved that," an exhausted Kelley said Sunday afternoon while taking a short break from his duties.
In addition to a larger variety of food, arts and crafts and business vendors peddling their goods, the festival added The Wall That Heals, a half-scale traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.
There were also a number of infrastructure upgrades made at the 86-acre Pumpkin Park in time for this year's festival, Kelley said. Among them were new sidewalks throughout the park and the new 950-seat music hall.
"We've got almost $1 million tied up in that music hall, but it's all been paid for," Kelley said. "I can proudly say that we've never been in debt."
The pumpkin auction wrapped up the festival with Cabell Circuit Judge Paul Farrell Sr. taking home the prize-winning gourd, a 951-pound behemoth grown by Pendleton County resident Herman Hevener. Farrell has purchased the top pumpkin in all but two of the 12 years he has bid at the auction.
All of the money raised at the auction goes toward the Pumpkin Festival's Scholarship Fund, which awarded $2,000 scholarships to three West Virginia high school seniors Sunday.
The scholarship recipients were Kayla Goodwin of Parkersburg High School, Alexis James of Capital High School and Katie Hinkle of Cabell Midland High School.
Kelley said the 25-member Pumpkin Festival Board of Directors has been working on the 2013 festival for a few months now. A coal mine museum that will become a permanent fixture on the park property should be open by then, he said. Milton businessman Roger Ball donated about $100,000 in mining equipment that will be showcased in the museum.