It's the great Pumpkin Festival, Charlie West

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WANT TO GO?West Virginia Pumpkin FestivalWHERE: Pumpkin Park, MiltonWHEN: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday; 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday
TICKETS: $7, children 5 and under free INFO: Call 304-634-5857 or visit www.wvpumpkinpark.com_____CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The annual West Virginia Pumpkin Festival returns this weekend with performers, a pageant and practically everything pumpkin."You should really try the pumpkin ice cream," said Bill Kelley, president of the festival.Kelley said the festival began very small in 1986 as collaboration between the Department of Agriculture and the town of Milton to help develop agriculture business in the area. "We started out with the Little League baseball field," he said.Now they occupy 86 acres. and the festival seems to get a little bigger every year. Part of that is the Pumpkin Festival's non-profit status."We're all volunteers," he said. "All the money we make goes back into the festival, the property and improvements to the property."This year's festival includes a wide range of activities, arts and crafts and entertainment.
Kelley said, "We've got 120 juried arts and crafts and over 300 business displays."There are also kids activities and concerts. Some of the acts scheduled to perform include Orange Blossom, The Silver Eagle Band, Jim and Valerie Gabehart, The Stone Street Band and Kalie Rose.
The festival's annual "largest pumpkin" competitions will also return in full force, and Kelley said the pumpkins just get bigger and bigger. "The largest we've had is a pumpkin over 1,400 pounds," he said.Kelley said there are tricks to growing a giant pumpkin, but not everybody does the same thing."Everybody has their own technique," he said. "They'll pick the blossoms off the vine except for one or two so it gets all the energy, and they'll develop their growing platform for years sometimes. I heard for the 1,400-pound pumpkin, they were giving it up to 80 gallons of water every day."But there are a lot of things you can do, I guess. Everybody is a little different."And with the pumpkin contest, size matters. First place earns the winner a dollar a pound. Second prize is only $100.
If you're not all that excited about seeing a pumpkin that weighs more than a high school basketball team, there are plenty of pumpkin goodies to be found. Cakes, cookies, pies and who knows what else will be for sale."You can't find better food in the state," Kelley said. "We're proud of our vendors."They also sell non-pumpkin items, too."But you should really try the ice cream," Kelley repeated and laughed.It's really good, he promised. Reach Bill Lynch at or 304-348-5195. 
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