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MILTON — West Virginia Pumpkin Festival President Cindy Hinkle said the celebration brings together residents from around the state.

The festival returned for its 34th year after a hiatus last year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Health precautions were taken to have the 2021 event, she said.

“I’ve had people stop by and say we are so thrilled to be back here,” Hinkle said Friday.

Vendors, artist demonstrationists, musicians and more were on display at the Pumpkin Festival. The event brings in economic support to the vendors and the area, Hinkle said. She added that festival organizers were pleased with the turnout, though they expected it to be less than normal due to the ongoing pandemic.

“We’re doing our part and encouraging everybody to social distance and do their part,” Hinkle said.

Volunteers this year gave vendors hand sanitizer and extra masks to give out to attendees, she said.

Dave Vititoe, a former longtime board member of the festival, has brought a restored stagecoach to the festival for several years. He restored the authentic vehicle with his grandson, he said Friday. During a previous festival with nice weather, he counted 2,000 kids who climbed into the stagecoach for a photo.

“You certainly don’t want to see it die,” Vititoe said of the importance of the festival returning this year.

He added that he estimated hundreds of hours were put into buildings at the Pumpkin Park in Milton.

Apphia Welker and Chloe Irwin, who are juniors at Cabell Midland High School, sold grilled corn at the festival with other students in the school’s Future Farmers of America club. Irwin, the FFA parliamentarian, said the sales help the students fund other activities and trips throughout the school year. Because of the pandemic last year, the group wasn’t able to fundraise for activities. Welker, the FFA secretary, said she and Irwin became officers to move the club out of that phase.

“It’s super hard to do those activities that we do without the fundraising that the Pumpkin Festival gives for us,” Irwin said.

McKenna Horsley is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch, covering local government in Huntington and Cabell County. Follow her on Twitter @Mckennahorsley.

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