PUMPKINTOWN — When it first began 39 years ago, the Pumpkin Festival hosted a handful of vendors and around two thousand people. Nowadays, it’s a little bit bigger …
“We had around 35,000 people last year,” said Festival Chairman Buddy Cox. “It was the largest turnout we’d ever had. But this year, I think we might top that.”
Cox is returning for his second year at the helm of the festival, but he’s no rookie when it comes to this game. It’s only his second year back.
“I was chairman at the start of all this and I did it for quite a while, but I decided to give it up and a lady ran it for 12 years,” said Cox. “Well, she retired and last year I was asked to come back. I said ‘OK, but just for this year.’ Well, that was last year and here I am doing it again.”
All in all, with a hefty team of volunteers, Cox has run the Pumpkin Festival for 26 years — no easy feat.
“It’s all about organization,” he said. “Years past I used to bush-hog the fields for parking and do a lot of the manual hands-on work that goes into this but when I came back I took a step back from all that — I delegate,” Cox laughed.
The Pumpkin Festival owes its success to the volunteers and the good hearted people in the community who step up, he said.
“We have these kids from Pickens High School — ROTC and Beta Club members — that give up their time and come help,” Cox said. “There’s about 100 volunteers right there that we couldn’t do this without.
“You have to understand, Pumpkintown has a very small population. When you have 35,000 people coming in on a Saturday … It can get pretty hectic, pretty quickly,” said Cox. “Every volunteer has an important job — myself included — I certainly won’t be just sitting around on Saturday, you have to lead by example.”
Cox said the slots for musicians, food and craft vendors were already filled up but a waiting list for last minute cancellations was available to those would-be vendors who didn’t turn in their applications in time.
“Spots go pretty fast,” he said.
In addition to the 160 or so vendors confirmed Cox is bringing back the carnival rides in the back field for the youngsters and has a 50-member gospel singing group lined up for the main stage.
When asked if the old stage behind the Oolenoy Community Building would support 50 people on it at once, Cox chuckled.
“It will now,” he said. “We’ve been all under there adding extra support. We sure wouldn’t want to make the front page that way, would we?”
The 39th annual Pumpkin Festival is Saturday, Oct. 14 at Oolenoy Community Building in Pumpkintown, rain or shine. As always, a parade kicks off the event beginning at the Pumpkintown General Store at 9 a.m.
Participants wanting to enter the parade should contact the Pumpkintown Fire Department at 864-878-3473.
For more information on the festival or to volunteer call Buddy Cox at 864-878-2045.
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.