Festival set to celebrate good year for gourds

Of all the things to do with a pumpkin, Jo Hackman of Hackman Produce in Hartsburg likes to make her famous pumpkin bars with cream cheese icing.

She has been making them since 1979, when she and her husband started planting the gourds at their farm in addition to cantaloupes and tomatoes.

“We found they were quite a hit,” she said.

Hackman said she will supply “several thousand” pumpkins for the annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival, a celebration of all things autumn being held this weekend in the town of just more than 100 people.

Donna Hilgedick, festival committee president, said the town expects 40,000 to 50,000 visitors. Vendors will sell hand-made crafts and a variety of food and nonalcoholic beverages. The festival also will feature its traditional corn maze and a pumpkin patch where children can select their own pumpkins.

And it’s a good year for picking pumpkins, Hackman said, noting the largest pumpkin she will provide the festival weighs more than 200 pounds.

That’s a lot of pumpkin bars.

Hackman said the growing season has brought the right amount of rain — enough to quench the gourds’ thirst but not so much that they rot in the field.

She said a good pumpkin has considerable heft, a sturdy and secure handle or stem, and a solid orange coloration. The weight means there’s enough meat inside the pumpkin to eat. The handle and hue are just for show, she said.

But the vast majority of the festival’s pumpkins won’t be eaten, Hilgedick said. She and her children carve them up for Halloween and roast the seeds.

The Hallsville Pumpkin Festival runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission is free, but crafts and food are available for purchase. Hartsburg does not have an ATM, so vendors ask that attendees bring cash, Hilgedick said.

The National Weather Service predicts a high of 58 degrees on Saturday with mostly cloudy skies and a 40 percent chance of rain. Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 65 with a 30 percent chance of rain.



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