Festival packs in fall flavor

Kettle corn popped, tractors rumbled and leaves blew Saturday during the fifth annual River City Fall Festival at the North Jefferson City Recreation Area.

The Central Missouri Master Gardeners held the annual event at the group’s demonstration gardens at Bill Quigg Commons in the recreation area.

Kathy Mills, the River City Fall Festival chair, said the event allows families from around Mid-Missouri to experience a day of family-friendly fun.

“We wanted to have a celebration for families,” Mills said. “This is the day in the garden for families to celebrate.”

Last year, about 3,000 people attended the event. Mills expected good weather Saturday morning and afternoon to at least match that.

Festivities kicked off with a parade for children clad in Halloween costumes. Ten entertainment acts played live music throughout the festival, which also included food vendors selling fair favorites like kettle corn, pecan pie and shaved ice.

Attendees could also participate on hay rides, and a petting zoo was on hand for children.

Horse rides were one of the favorite attractions for children.

As Jacob Stafford, 8, sat atop a tan horse, the youngster looked nervous.

“My legs hurt,” Stafford said as he hopped on the back of the horse.

A horse trainer walked the horse with Stafford on the animal’s back for about a half-mile. By the time the boy returned, he smiled with excitement.

“It was really fun,” he said.

Stafford’s sister Kaitlyn, 11, said she was afraid she would fall off the horse.

“The horse kept speeding up and then slowing down,” she said.

A short walk away, children had the opportunity to bounce in bubbles by playing Knockerball. The game, in which participants wear inflatable bubbles and knock each other down, had children like Cayden Anderson, 6, giggling all day.

“I was upside down,” Anderson said while smiling.

About 80 vendors from around the region hawked items from pumpkins to jewelry to Christmas tree ornaments made from light bulbs.

Joe Burnett stood Saturday afternoon surrounded by a rainbow of colors at his wooden crafts stand. Burnett retired from ABB five years ago and began making hand-made birdhouses, bird feeders and yard signs to sell at craft fairs.

Many of the signs were decked out in the colors and logos of sports teams like the University of Missouri, St. Louis Cardinals and Kansas City Chiefs.

Business was swift Saturday, Burnett said. He and his wife, Jan, will need to work 10-12 hour days later this week to replace the inventory they sold at the fall festival. As he stood in the shade Saturday with leaves blowing off trees around him, Burnett said he enjoyed working the fall festival.

“I like coming out here,” he said. “Even if I don’t sell anything I get to talk to people.”

The Central Missouri Master Gardeners, which is part of the University of Missouri Cole County Extension, manages 10 gardens at Quigg Commons with the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. The gardens feature shaded areas, trees and plants, like hostess and lilies, from around the area.

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