Milton prepares for ‘Pumpkin Roads, Take Me Home’ Festival

Breanna Francis, Reporter

Newly laid gravel lines the pathways of the Pumpkin Festival fairgrounds as staff prepares for the 2017 Pumpkin Festival, themed “Pumpkin Roads, Take Me Home.”

Gus Douglas, the commissioner of agriculture at the time of the first Pumpkin Festival over 30 years ago, wanted to create an event that would allow farmers to sell their crops to other locals and celebrate the fall harvest.

The festival, completely ran by volunteers who serve in a board of directors and have elected officers, has morphed into one of the largest festivals in the state of West Virginia.

“Electing members every year keeps the festival fresh, keeps dedicated members here and really helps to make the festival a great one,” Mark Cooper, president of Pumpkin Festival, said. “We want the people to come out and enjoy the days, without saying ‘ugh, that was the same as last year.’ We really want people to come out and have a good time.”

Cooper said this year the volunteers focused on featuring vendors and events that were updated and would accommodate a younger crowd, relying heavily on social media marketing to gauge what works and what does not for other festivals.

“We have probably 100 arts and crafts vendors, who have to submit their work to a committee who reviews their work before it’s allowed into the festival, so that we are only featuring unique and high quality products,” Cooper said. “We also have business booths, historical period reenactors, 23 food vendors, including new food trucks, and we even have helicopter rides this year. For the festival to continue to be here in the next 20 years, we have to be open to change, and I’m excited for it.”

The annual event has become a staple of fall West Virginia culture, drawing in an estimated 40,000 people over the four-day period.

“I remember going and just being stunned by all of the sights and sounds and smells,” said Tyler Matney, 24, a Huntington resident and Marshall University alum. “There’s pumpkin flavored everything, all kinds of music and gigantic, prize winning pumpkins. It’s just a great symbol of fall arriving here in the mountains every year.”

The fairgrounds, totaling over 80 acres of land, will be open to the public Thursday through Sunday. The gates will open at 9 a.m.

Breanna Francis can be contacted at [email protected].