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Old stand-by the corn maze and a host of new events mark this year's Hunsader Farms Pumpkin Festival in East Manatee

EAST MANATEE -- Roughly 7 feet tall and rising, this year's corn maze at the 23rd annual Hunsader Farm Pumpkin Festival is exceptionally tall, said Kim Hunsader.

"It's beautiful this year," she said. "It's very tall. It just grew really, really good this year."

Her husband, farm owner David Hunsader, spent an entire week working to ensure the maze was ready for this year's festival, which begins Saturday.

Spanning 7 acres in East Manatee County, this year's corn maze -- a staple at the annual festival for about 10 years -- from an aerial point of view, is pumpkin-shaped with the words, "Happy fall, y'all."

The festival runs for the next three weekends this month, Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 18 and 19 and Oct. 25 and 26. The festival is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of those days and admission is $10 for ages 13, free for ages 12 and under. Organizers said they are are expecting more than 50,000 people to attend the festival during the three weekends.

To enter the maze, the festival-goers first must travel back in time to the Old West, going through the bank in the Old Western Town, one of this year's new attractions. Also in the Old Western Town is a jail, wagon shop and saloon, which will house some of this year's shows.

The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show and the Farm-ly Feud Game Show will be held inside the saloon.

"It's more festive," Kim Hunsader said of the Old Western Town.

"It's really neat because we have an old jail wagon next to the (jail)."

In addition to the Old Western Town, other new attractions include the lumberjack show, Texas Jack Fulbright Trick Roper and American Wall of Death Motodrome. All entertainment is included in the festival's admission price.

Even if attending the Pumpkin Festival is an annual tradition for a family, Kim Hunsader said with the new additions, those people will "definitely love" the festival this year.

"We try to add something or do something a little different every year," said Hunsader, who has attended the festival every year since it began 23 years ago.

Over the years, the number of food vendors has grown and the number of weekends of the festival has been expanded to meet the festival's growth in attendance, she said, adding that the festival has become a fall staple in Manatee County.

"When we started, people were little kids and now they are bringing their kids to (the festival)," she said.

"It's a lot of work so to see people coming out and having fun, it is important to us ... It's a family event. It's a country-family event. There is no alcohol and it's a good place to have wholesome fun with their family. You can spend the whole day here. There is so much to do."

For a complete list of the festival's entertainment this year, go to hunsaderfarms.com.

Claire Aronson, the University Parkway/Sarasota reporter can be contacted at 745-7024 or at caronson@bradenton.com. Follow her on Twitter @Claire_Aronson.

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