Family events abound at Pumpkin Festival

Sep. 28, 2013 @ 07:31 PM

It was all about family at the annual Pumpkin Festival on Saturday, which continues today from noon until 5 p.m. or thereabouts.

The event, located at the Hart family’s farm at 885 Meronies Church Road, drew hundreds of spectators Saturday with its wide range of attractions — everything from pony rides and bouncy slides for the kids to tractor pulls, live bluegrass and gospel music, historical re-enactors, model trains, a petting zoo and vendors selling jewelry, bags, belts or deep-fried everything. And, of course, pumpkins.

Today’s lineup will have more live music, plus a high-flying aerial acrobats and a mudding contest in addition to all the booths, vendors and attractions on hand Saturday.

There won’t be another tractor pull, but those who were out Saturday had some fun, especially the Shelton family. Donald Shelton, the family patriarch, wasn’t pulling this year but he did have two people to cheer for in his stepson and grandson.

Donald Andrew Shelton, the 10-year-old who was named after his grandpa but goes by Andrew, was competing in his first tractor pull ever. His mom, Miranda Pearson, said the family all got together and decided that if he could get on his school’s A/B Honor Roll, he could do it. He made honor roll and spent the better part of the day sitting on his tractor whether he was competing at the time or not, Pearson said.

“He hasn’t gotten off that thing yet, I don’t think,” she said. “He’s so excited.”

His uncle Buddy Baker (not the famous NASCAR racer, but rather Shelton’s 20-year-old stepson) was also pulling. He spoke with The Herald before either of his two weight classes had gone, but he said he was hoping to win on at least one of his two-cylinder John Deeres — the only kind of tractor anyone in the family uses.

Baker got started 10 years ago, when he was Andrew’s age, and Andrew’s mom said her son recently wrote an essay for school about a hero, and he chose Baker. Shelton said he understands the younger guys’ fascination with tractors and engines, since he’s the same way.

“It’s just something I’ve always loved, working with tractors,” he said. “Growing up on a farm, it’s what you did.”

The tractors are being replaced with a “mud sling” contest today, although the organizers will probably need to work a little harder to make it happen than in years past, since the forecast doesn’t anticipate heavy rain like they’ve had recently. But Peggie Hart, who owns the land with her husband Duane, said that the good weather has also meant much better turnout for the festival, which costs $5 to get into and is the main fundraiser of the South Chatham Ruritan Club.

“We’re excited about the weather,” Hart said. “Very blessed that it’s better than last year.”

Taking advantage of the nice weather Saturday, the festival also decided to have a jack-o-lantern display at dusk. Maggie Talley, a Bear Creek neighbor of the Harts, spent most of the day carving intricate designs into a half-dozen pumpkins, precisely cutting out abstract shapes and symbols as well as faces, words and even a dragon on one. She said she has been carving just about anything that can be carved since she was six years old and simply enjoys the creative process.

“It’s not a profession,” Talley said. “Just for fun. It helps me relax.”