EAST MANATEE -- Whether it's the tons of pumpkins, dozens of carnival food vendors or entertaining musical or monster truck acts, the Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival brings new and old visitors each year for the family friendly atmosphere.
On opening day Saturday, hundreds came to see the pumpkins and all things that epitomize the autumn season and prove fall has arrived.
For the past nine years, Lenny Lichtenstein has come to the festival with his wife and his best friend Chuck Eynon, who also brings his wife. They said the festival never changes but it's always great.
"We come for about three or four hours and have a nice time," said Lichtenstein. "The food, entertainment and people watching is great."
Their wives, who are cousins, walked around the festival while their men sat
in the picnic table area near the stage where the musical acts performed.
"We come every year. I saw it in the newspaper," said Eynon, laughing. "But we like the crafts and watching people go by."
For first-time festival attendee Ellice Wykes, it was having a safe, activity filled place to bring her kids Saturday that drew her into coming.
"They're around here running around," she said. "They liked the circus."
Wykes traveled 30 minutes from Apollo Beach in Hillsborough County because of an ad she saw online.
"It looked like it was fun. I decided to come with my family," said Wykes. "I like this because it's for families. You don't have to worry about things for your kids. They can run around and have fun."
For that past six years, festival food vendor Katie Greene Rankin, who runs Kate's Diner, has come back to the festival because of its family friendly atmosphere and because it's close to home.
"It's right in our back yard. Usually we travel everywhere," she said. "My parents live in Myakka City and that's right down the road."
She said the fair continues to grow and she's seen an increase in attendance.
"I think in the last couple of years there's been a lot of people coming," said Rankin. "It's a nice family atmosphere, people love our food, and we like to come back."
The festival continues today and for the next two weekends from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Here are the remaining shows and activities:
Oct. 19-20: Buffalo Country Band, Southern Express Bluegrass, Sweeney Family Band, Bob & Tom the Band (Oct. 19 only), Rick the Trickster (Oct. 20 only), Old Time Music with Ed & Geraldine, Walker Brothers Circus, Farm-ly Feud Game Show, Smage Brothers Stunt Show, Gunslinger Monster Truck Show and Justino Zoppe Magic Show.
Oct. 26-27: Buffalo Country Band, Watching Wendy (Oct. 26 only), Porchdogs Band (Oct. 27 only), Sweeney Family Band, Mean Mary Music, Old Time Music with Ed & Geraldine, Walker Brothers Circus, Farm-ly Feud Game Show, Moto Cross Stunt Show, Gunslinger Monster Truck Show and Justino Zoppe Magic Show.
Also, Oct. 27 are costume contests for children in various age groups: 1 p.m. up to 2 years old, 1:30 p.m. ages 3-4, 2 p.m. ages 5-7, 2:30 p.m. ages 8-10. Children in costumes can trick-or-treat from 3 to 5 p.m.
Details: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 13, 19-20 and 26-27, Hunsader Farms, 5500 County Road 675, Bradenton. Tickets: $8, children 12 and under free. Information: 941-322-2168, www.hunsaderfarms.com.
Janey Tate, city of Bradenton and Palmetto reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041. You can follow her on Twitter at Janey_Tate.