By Curt Yeomans
Children from across the Southern Crescent will play in a Halloween-inspired maze on Saturday at Jonesboro First United Methodist Church's fifth annual Pumpkin Festival, while their parents check out craft tables.
The church is located at 142 South Main Street, Jonesboro.
Eventually, families will gather together and select from the 4,000 pumpkins that are on sale. Occasionally, a small child will run ahead of his or her parents to point out a large pumpkin, which might make the perfect Jack-O-Lantern.
The festival starts at 9 a.m., and ends at 4 p.m. Throughout the month, the church is selling pumpkins in the grassy knoll at the corner of South Main Street and College Street. There are small pumpkins, tall pumpkins, short, squatty pumpkins, and large, fat pumpkins. The prices range from 50 cents to $16.
"The festival kinda kicks off our selling season," said Doug Thompson, a mission leader for the church, and one of the coordinators of the festival. "We do this to raise money for our youth ministry and mission projects ... We also do this as a community-outreach project."
On Friday, Thompson was setting up a display, featuring bales of hay, several pumpkins of various sizes, shapes and colors, and a tall, corn stalk. Earlier, workers were putting tall, wooden stakes into the ground as part of the foundation for the children's maze. Meanwhile, other church members continued to sell pumpkins.
"It's been a little slow, so far," said Thompson. "I think it's due to gas [prices and shortages] and the economy. We usually do well on festival day, however, and I think this year will be no different."
As Thompson talked about pumpkin sales, Hampton resident, Kay Brumbelow, pulled into the parking lot with her sons, Griffin, 3, and Mason, 10 months. Immediately, Griffin took off and began searching the pumpkins for that perfect pumpkin to turn into a Jack-O-Lantern for the porch of his family's home.
"Let's get this one," Griffin told his mother. Then, as he struggled to pick up a pumpkin that was one-third as tall as he was, Griffin looked up and bolted to another aisle. He stopped in front of a pile of large pumpkins and exclaimed, "I want one of these!"
Eventually, Griffin, his mother, and his brother, went home with four 50-cent pumpkins, and two more which cost $5 a piece.
"I was voting over there [at the Historic Courthouse across the railroad tracks] and as we were leaving, he [Griffin] saw this, and was like 'PUMPKINS!' " said Kay Brumbelow.