The 23rd annual PumpkinFest kicked off on Friday evening, inviting patrons to enjoy food, entertainment and the spirit of fall at Pattee Park and the Pony Express National Museum.

Cindy Daffron, executive director of the museum, said that over the past few years, the festival has aimed to be a family-friendly event where both children and parents can have fun.

“The children’s center is now free,” Daffron said. “You can go in; sponsors do it so people don’t have to buy things for a quarter. And people like the little pumpkin shop, because you can give your kid $1, and they can go away with two or three things. So a lot of people want to make sure that children have a good event.”

The festival features three days of entertainment from storytelling to music to magic shows. On Saturday morning, a children’s parade will kick off the second day of the festival, with registration beginning at Patee House at 10 a.m.

Along with the kid-centered events, the festival also features carnival rides, food and vendors for teens and adults to enjoy. Of course, the event that festival-goers of all ages enjoy is the lighting of Pumpkin Mountain.

“There’s usually over 850 pumpkins,” Daffron said. “We know the logo pumpkins are around 120, and the Missouri Western softball team came and carved almost 44 hours last night.”

While decor like Pumpkin Mountain, covers the festival ground in orange, there is one section of the festival that is a different color. This year, Stacie Smith, co-chair of the festival, decorated the fountain that sits at the center of the festival is decorated pink in honor of those battling breast cancer.

“This year, we have a board member who is fighting breast cancer, and I decided to dedicate it to breast cancer this year,” Smith said. “We got together and named names of people who are fighting or have fought it or who are now angels. So those names are in the fountain to, and that’s just the beginning of what we started two days ago.”

Daffron said that the festival is expected to see around 25,000 people between Friday and Sunday. The festival will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to around 10 p.m. and on Sunday from noon to around 5 p.m.

Those who missed the lighting of Pumpkin Mountain can watch the event again on Saturday at 8 p.m.

Jessika Eidson can be reached

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