Pumpkin festival planned Friday, Saturday

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SPRING HOPE — Tens of thousands will crowd small-town streets this weekend for the 47th annual Spring Hope National Pumpkin Festival.

This year’s festival returns to a multi-day format after condensing last year’s festivities into a single day. Saturday’s Miss Pumpkin Queen pageant kicked off the beginning of festival week. Sixteen-year-old Marley Gray Winstead was crowned Miss Pumpkin Queen and will receive a $1,000 scholarship. Four-year-old Avery Baker won the title of Little Miss Pumpkin Queen and $100. Both young ladies will be introduced during the festival at noon this Saturday on the Depot Stage.

On Friday, the pumpkin recipe contest begins at 9 a.m., and food vendors will begin opening for business at noon. The full street festival kicks into gear starting at 5 p.m. Jerenae Raeford, the reigning Miss Wilson, will perform the national anthem followed by a concert by beach music favorites Chairmen of the Board and a street dance.

On Saturday morning, organizers will hold the annual pumpkin weigh-in as well as a pumpkin roll with a $50 cash prize for the adult winner and $10 for the children’s division. There also will be a number of performances, including the St. John United Holy Church choir.

At noon, there will be a meet and greet with WRAL-TV’s Tar Heel Traveler, Scott Mason. Mason also will serve as the grand marshal for the afternoon festival parade.

Started in 1971 by Ralph Bass, Elmo Tant and the Spring Hope Area Chamber of Commerce, the pumpkin festival promotes small businesses and celebrates the fall harvest. An estimated 5,000 people attended the first festival. In recent years, attendance has topped 36,000.