IT IS the most festive of times in western Belmont County. The Barnesville Pumpkin Festival officially unfolds Thursday, unleashing four days of unabashed fun and excitement.
The pumpkin spectacular draws thousands of people from near and far. This week's festival takes on an added special flavor as it celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Activities actually got underway Sunday with the crowning of royalty.
Madison Neiswonger, a Beallsville High School student, is queen while the princess is Alana Trigg, who attends Barnesville Middle School, and the mini miss is Lillian Ford, a student at Phillips Elementary School in Marietta.
Another crowning of gigantic proportions will play out tonight. The annual King Pumpkin weigh-in will begin at 6 p.m. Special scales are needed to weigh the mighty orbs. It is one of the festival's most popular attractions.
Last year's King Pumpkin, grown by Jay Johnson of Kimbolton, weighed 1,500-1/2 pounds, the second largest in festival history. That is a far cry from the initial champion in 1964 when Tom Rockwell's winner weighed just 72 pounds. Royalty is just one of the many splendid features of the festival.
Entertainment, foods of all kinds, contests, midway rides, displays, a flea market, art show, used book sale, old and new farm machinery as well as the 5K Pumpkin Run/Walk and the antique and classic car show are part of the activities during the festival, which will conclude Sunday with an auction of all unclaimed pumpkins, squash and other produce from the display tables and the selection of the winner of the fourth annual pumpkin crock.
The Giant Pumpkin Parade Saturday, beginning at 1:45 p.m., will feature a special float to honor the festival's founders. Original committee members and volunteers who were involved with festival's earlier years are invited to ride on the founders' float.
Darren Miller, who has been associated with the event for years, has been selected to cut the ribbon as part of the official opening ceremonies Thursday at 5 p.m.
We commend all those associated with the festival for staging an event so attractive to so many for half of a century.
We urge Ohio Valley residents to treat themselves to a special time this week by taking a Magic Pumpkin Ride in Barnesville.