Belmont County’s Barnesville Pumpkin Festival Welcomes New Friends | News, sports, jobs


TL Photo / ROBERT A. DEFRANK Crowds turn out Friday for the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival.

BARNESVILLE – The Barnesville Pumpkin Festival headed the weekend with growing crowds and the return of a popular attraction.

Gus Smithhisler of Pataskala, Ohio the “Pumpkin Carver” visited to create his art. Smithhisler has made a name for himself with his elaborate and detailed scenes that he carves into large pumpkins. When he first appeared at the festival in 2019, he was a hit with his patriotic carving.

“I hope to be a regular part of the festival now” he said. “The people here are fantastic – very helpful, very hospitable, excited to have me here. Very grateful for the work I’ve done. … This is my season, I do the fall festivals, do the zoos. “

Smithhisler was disappointed not being able to present in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the festival.

“The pandemic knocked everything out” he said.

This year, Smithhisler created a pastoral farm scene.

“We thought we wanted to do something happy. We wanted to awaken people’s mood “, he said. “Something alive. … Do a farm scene, something light and happy. “

In 2019 the theme of the parade was Veterans of World War II. For the occasion, Smithhisler carved the famous flag raising scene in Iwo Jima.

“It was really worth it” he said.

Smithhisler said that early in his pumpkin carving career he decided to focus on scenes rather than more ordinary faces and Halloween themes. He started growing giant pumpkins and started carving them for fun at the Indiana State Fair. He later learned the art of pumpkin carving, but is mainly self-taught.

“Probably the most difficult task I’ve ever done was an eagle for the Columbus Zoo.” he said.

Since the pumpkin carvings are temporary, people only have a short window to see them directly.

“All I have left are photos. The pumpkins usually only last a few days if you carve them. “ he said. He added that there are plenty of online resources and helpful blunders out there that can offer advice to anyone looking to get into the hobby.

“I think it’s unbelievable” said his son Jack Smithhisler.

This year he was working on an 800-pound pumpkin donated by Barnesville-based breeder Dan Stephens.

Keith Williams, vice president of the festival committee, said Smithhisler would be a welcome addition to the line-up.

“It’s wonderful. I don’t know how to do something like that. He’s really very good at what he does,” said Williams.

The carving will be auctioned and the money will be donated to a good cause. In 2019, the pumpkin carving auctioned off for more than $ 1,000 donated to the VFW village.

Williams said the festival started slowly for the first two days, likely because of the cool, wet weather, but the crowds and traffic started to grow as the festival turned into the weekend.

“Looks really good” he said.

He added that attendance at the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off was high and a new state record was broken by Jeff Theil of Dillonvale, the King Pumpkin winner with a 2,195-pound pumpkin.

“This year we had many of our returnees” said Williams.

Many visitors from near and far were overjoyed with the return of the festival.

“It’s wonderful, you can’t beat it. It’s a good time “ Tim Ollom of the Clarington area said adding that the festival is welcome after being canceled last year. “People have been coming here for years. … People have been working all year to prepare things for this event and then it was closed. That was sad. … There are people I’ve worked with who come here that I haven’t seen in years. … It’s a beautiful location and a beautiful city. “

“We try to come every year” said Stacy Ollom of Cameron, Ohio.

Trista Lucas from Caldwell said she enjoys visiting family in the area.

“This is my hometown. I can’t go without the Pumpkin Festival. It’s just so much fun,” Gracy Hayslett of Magnolia, Ohio said. “I missed it because it didn’t happen (last year) but I’m glad it is back.”

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