Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Fest draws 25,000 to Manatee

skennedy@bradenton.comOctober 21, 2013 

EAST MANATEE -- It was a day for corndogs, hayrides, song and dance and all forms of simple country fun, including big cold glasses of lemonade and napping in the shade.

The 22nd Annual Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival attracted about 25,000 Sunday, the second weekend of a three-weekend run.

Lucky kids at the family friendly festival enjoyed choosing Halloween pumpkins, riding ponies, hopping to live music and chowing down on a veritable smorgasbord of delightful treats,

including everything from ice cream and pizza to fresh apples and grilled corn-on-the-cob.

One festivalgoer discovered Pumpkin Festival attendees are an honest lot: She dropped her cellphone, debit card and identification, along with $37, and drove away.

When she returned, she got all of it back.

"It fell out of my bag in the parking lot," said Elizabeth Arnold, 26, a special events coordinator from Tampa, as she claimed her items at the festival's Lost and Found Desk.

"Everyone knew it was mine," she said of those she met on her frantic way back, retracing her steps. When she got back to the parking lot, onlookers told her the items had been turned in.

The festival this year boasted a few new attractions, including the Gunslinger Monster Truck Show and Justino Zoppe's "Magic and Beyond" performance, said Kim Hunsader, a family member who helps put on the festival each year.

That was in addition to 100 arts and crafts booths, about 20 food vendors, musical acts on the Boogie Barn Stage and, of course, the Giant Pumpkin Tent, the Pumpkin Cannon and various circus and stunt performers, she said.

"We love it here," said Brian Nolan, 54, a communications specialist from Lakeland, who was putting away a big sandwich at a shady picnic table with his wife, Rae Nolan, 51, an attorney, and their two grandchildren, Erika, 2 and Brian, 5.

The elder Brian Nolan said they had come for years, noting: "It's gotten bigger."

Indira Ramotar, 25, a hair and makeup artist from Wesley Chapel, said she was a first-time guest, and had driven 90 minutes to treat her son, Nick, 6, daughter Isha, 8, and niece, Nazeema, 6, to the festival.

"This is the only festival near our house," she said as the youngsters hopped in anticipation at the gate.

Asked what they looked forward to most, the children said they wanted to try a hayride, formally titled "Bob and Jim's Hillbilly Hayrides."

In the distance, the hay wagon could be seen circling a big, open field with its jolly riders snuggled in the hay beneath a blue sky sporting white cotton-candy clouds.

The event concludes from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the big east Manatee farm south of the intersection of State Road 64 and County Road 675.

Admission for adults is $8, children 12 and younger are free and parking costs $5.

Information: 941-322-2168 or hunsaderfarms.com.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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