SHIRLEY — The Pumpkins and Peddlers Festival returns for its second year this weekend in Shirley in what has become a welcome new tradition for the close-knit community that just enjoys spending time together.
The festival replaced the summer Founders Day in 2020, which had been running low on steam and participation. Fall has become a better time for many peoples’ schedules, said organizer Andy Ebbert, and neighbors were simply ready to be out and about and catch up with their friends after months of the pandemic.
Now, despite sometimes questionable fall weather for the new annual tradition, Ebbert said a festival all about pumpkins and the fall is a welcome change.
“We had a good turnout for the first year,” Ebbert said. “It was really cold last year, but we were really excited about the turnout last year. We added the parade to it this year, which is something that was always a Founders Day staple.”
The festival takes place in Shirley Park and includes vendor booths, food and live music. Festivities kick off at 5 p.m. Friday with a pulled pork dinner, made by the culinary program of New Castle Career Center, which serves as both a learning experience for the students and a fundraiser for the program. Food continues Saturday with a hearty breakfast sponsored by Shirley Community Visionaries — the group that’s organizing the festival — and a lunch by the volunteers of the Jane Ross Reeves Octagon House.
A parade featuring tractors, animals, fire trucks and more will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday, starting at South Street and heading along Main Street to end in the park. Stock garden tractor pulls happen at noon, and this year there’s a stock class open to any tractor.
Theresa Ebbert, Andy Ebbert’s sister-in-law, is also on the planning committee. Concerts this year, Ebbert said, will feature classic rock music at 6 p.m. Friday with the Boggy Branch Band and 1 p.m. Saturday with the Sean Moore Band. Live gospel music with Divine Vision will be at 11 a.m. Saturday.
“We aren’t a very large community but that makes it better actually because everybody kind of knows everybody,” Theresa Ebbert said. “They get an opportunity to kind of get together with their family and friends; everybody’s been cooped up for the last year or so and it’s a good way to visit with everybody and have entertainment and food.”
Participants will also be able to catch a glimpse of a future community feature of Shirley: construction has begun on a new mile-long trail that will connect the town’s park with its downtown area and the historic Octagon House. While not complete for this year’s festival, it’ll be a welcome addition to future community activities and will also include play equipment for children, Theresa Ebbert said.
Andy Ebbert said with good weather luck, the Pumpkins and Peddlers Festival should hold positive vibes for the community this weekend.
“It should be a nice, quiet Friday night and Saturday during the day to get out and enjoy some fall weather,” he said.