Home Social Justice First Athens Pumpkin Festival marks the possibility of more to come

First Athens Pumpkin Festival marks the possibility of more to come

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The Pumpkin Festival kicked off on Saturday morning at the Athens County Fairgrounds, bringing fall to Athens with a variety of contests, food, music, and pumpkins galore.

The man behind the festival, Tom Weekley, member of the Athens County Fairboard and owner of Weekleyville Pumpkin Farms, has been a pumpkin enthusiast since 1983 when he started farming his own.

“The history begins today. This is the first pumpkin festival,” Weekley said. “We started this to put the fairboard in the public eye, in a different way.”

Weekley invested in half of everything to get this festival up and going.“It takes a lot to start these kinds of things,” he said.

The festival, proposed by Weekley, was a trial to create more revenue for the fair board.“There are 18 of us on the board and I’m the pumpkin person,” Weekley said.

The board usually has one event per year that brings in enough revenue to keep it running. It is hard to run a business on one week out of the year, Weekley said.

“We would like to promote this fair every week of the year. This is a start,” Weekley said.

The festival began at 9 a.m. with competitions for junior fair clubs that included a pumpkin short roll, barrel races and a pumpkin relay. Live music began at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, competitions opened up for everyone and included downhill pumpkin races, a pumpkin long roll and pumpkin “hand chunkin,” which is similar to a shot put throw, a pumpkin seed spitting contest and a pie eating contest.

“One of the reasons for coming up with some of these contests was the hope that we would get OU students out here,” Weekley said.

Shannon and Ken Carley have been living in Athens for eight years and brought their two children, ages two and seven, to the festival.

“It’s great weather and it’s a great family thing to do: do the fall festivities and pick out pumpkins and be part of the community. It’s a good thing,” Shannon said.

Their son participated in the short roll competition. “My son’s pumpkin rolled down the hill, over that little six foot wall, was thrown over there against that guard rail, and broke. So he had a little mini break down, but he’s been recovering,” Ken said. “It’s been an exciting day,” Shannon said.

The festival ran alongside the flea market that went from Saturday to Sunday, selling antiques, clothing and many other odds and ends.

“We were set up at another flea market and Tom Weekly, who I’ve known for years, came around and informed us of this,” Dan Moore, a vendor at the flea market, said.

Mostly selling knives, including case and import, Moore said they also “like to tinker around and make a few items ourselves.”

Moore drove about 40 miles to come to the festival.

“It’s a good, fun hobby. [We] meet some nice folks,” Moore said.

“So far it’s been a pretty good event. We are having a lot of fun,” Weekley said. “We’re here for the kids. I am here for the fun too—I like pumpkins.”

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