"The First Annual Hartsburg Pumpkin Festival brings the celebration of the pumpkin to mid-Missouri on Saturday and Sunday, October 12-13, 1991. Self-claimed "Missouri's Pumpkin Patch," Hartsburg will be filled with outstanding arts and crafts, musical entertainment, Halloween decorations and tens of thousands of pumpkins. In true Halloween spirit, the festival features pumpkin carving, pumpkin pie eating competitions, hayrides in the pumpkin patch, pumpkin painting, apple butter making and a straw maze. Pumpkin baked goods can be sampled at the Hartsburg Café and a Pumpkin Festival cookbook will be available for purchase. At 6pm on Saturday, the spectacular Missouri River Bluffs covered with trees in full autumn bloom, will serve as a backdrop for the Missouri Tourism hot air balloon as it launches from the pumpkin patch. The Pumpkin Festival, sponsored by the Hartsburg Bike and Social Club, is scheduled from 10am-6pm on Saturday and from noon to 4pm on Sunday"....
....So began a community festival in the fall of 1991. Organized by a local group of eight people known as the Hartsburg Bike and Social Club. That first year, no fee was charged for booth spaces (because we didn't know if anyone would come), the all pumpkin cookbook sold for $3, t-shirts for $9, and 90 year old Henry Klemme was crowned Pumpkin King. Twenty-five crafters participated and 6000 people attended the two day event. Patsy Dalton, Southern Boone County Commissioner addressed the festival goers. We held a Pumpkin Festival auction of donated items, which generated money to pay our festival bills. Our first year's budget was $3000.
Fast forward to 2023 to our 32nd annual festival and some things still are happening and some things have changed, We have only missed two festivals throughout our history. One for the 1993 flood where 40 of the 50 homes and buildings were extensively damaged and required rebuilding. And 2020 due to the Covid shutdown. In our 32 year we have seen booth fees instituted. A kickoff parade starts us off every year on Saturday morning. Annual t-shirts are sold to many to commemorate another year passed. Tram service to parked cars started in 1994 and continues this year with the thanks from Boone Electric Cooperative and Lauf Equipment of Jefferson City for donating the tractors to pull the trams. The year of 1994 began our tradition of community payback where we donate funds each year to a local Hartsburg project.
We faced our worst fears in 2001, when it rained ALL day that Saturday, but we learned that 5000 serious shoppers do come out in the rain. In 2004, we won the "Innovator Award" from the Missouri Division of Tourism. We were considered the "Little mouse that roared," by hosting a festival which drew thousands of participants with such a small budget. Attendance figures peaked in 2005 with 50,000 eager festival goers. With the peak of attendance, a decision was made to change the routes into the festival so vehicles and festival goers were not intermingling.
The 2022 festival brought it's own obstacles which forced us to begin charging $5 for a car for parking in the fields. Our booth fees are $150 for a 2 day festival. We estimate 25,000-30,000 festival goers attended this year. We continue the main stage acts which includes Midwest musicians and a magic show for the kids. We have approximately 230 booth spaces throughout the town. And continue to be an all volunteer organization that works year round to bring you the best festival around. Though Hartsburg is a small town(population 143 census-2021), people from the Midwest flock to it during festival days. We think because of its big family-friendly charm and hospitality.
Happy Pumpkin Festival going, you all!