Little Hazel Ann Sholar squatted on a blue tarp in the parking lot of the Hopkinsville-Christian County Public Library and swirled paint on a paper plate, a large orange pumpkin at her side.

The popular booth, with free pumpkins available for painting, had already had a steady stream of customers eager to ply their paintbrushes to the surface of the gourds, and people were continuing to drop by to pick out a pumpkin and settle in for a little decorating.

"It's been a huge success," said LeeAnn Sorrell, a board member of the Pennyroyal Arts Council, which joined with the Hopkinsville Art Guild to offer pumpkin-painting during this past weekend's second annual Hoptown Harvest Festival at Little River Park and Founders Square.

Giles Farms donated pumpkins for the painting, which attracted kids and grown-ups alike, and Hopkinsville High School's Army Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps helped with the event.

Hopkinsville Downtown Renaissance Director Holly Boggess said officials estimate 10,000 people were at Saturday's events, and she said the weather could not have been more perfect.

"We thought it was a great festival," said Boggess, who noted that people came to listen to the music, sample the event's spirits as well as food vendors, patronize the Farmers' Market Vintage Arts and Craft Fair booths and, for young festival-goers, enjoy the kids' zone activities.

The Founders Square Feast: A Farm to Table Event did well on Friday, with Chef Teeka Osbourne of Southern Belle Catering, "knocking the ball out of the park," Boggess said.

Graham and Heather Dawson of The Mixer provided desserts, with MB Roland and Casey Jones distilleries along with Hopkinsville Brewing Co. and Carriage House Vineyards of Clarksville providing drinks for the feast, which was in its fourth year.

Additionally, other vendors provided spirits for the Kentucky Bourbon Mashoree on Saturday afternoon.

Boggess noted that the local festival has its roots with the farm-to-table event and people who saw pictures of that event elsewhere and wanted to bring it to downtown Hopkinsville.

The bourbon mashoree became a part of the downtown events last year, and Boggess said organizers were excited to also incorporate the community's Military Affairs Committee Chili Cook-Off.

On Saturday, Wayne Parthun sat at a table and sold disposable cups for chili sampling.

By mid-afternoon, he had used a whole case of cups - or maybe even two cases.

"I think we've had a good crowd," Parthun said. "We've gotten rid of over 500 cups."

Visiting the local festival with their daughter, Hazel Ann's parents, Michael Hensley and Mary Sholar from neighboring Todd County, said they liked United Southern Bank's chili the best, while Tammy Prichard of Clarksville said the City of Hopkinsville's chili appealed to her.

"It was just good," she declared.

Hours before the town munched on cups of steaming hot chili, hundreds of runners took off through the streets of Hopkinsville in the inaugural Hoptown Half Marathon and 5K.

A crew from Clarksville's Fleet Feet Running Club took the title of top male and female finishers in both the marathon and 5K.

Brad Averitt and Erica Lovely were the winners of the marathon while Stella Christoforou was the overall winner of the 5K.

"We're training for a marathon, so this seemed like a pretty good opportunity to run a half marathon to get prepared," Averitt said.

Lovely, a mother of three and military spouse, said running has always been a part of her life through track and now as a way to connect with her community.

"We're a military family and sometimes it gets so hard because my husband's deployed ... but running is a way of just reminding myself that we're blessed to be this healthy and to be able to do things like this," Lovely said.

Christoforou --- winner of the Nashville Rock N' Roll Marathon women's division in 2018 --- was involved in both the 5K and the preliminary pasta dinner and race expo Friday, sharing motivational tips with runners before the big day.

Saturday, after completing the 3.1-mile course, Christoforou was still a ball of energy.

"Ever since I heard there was going to be a 5K and a half marathon in addition to the harvest festival, I was like, 'Yes, this is going to be a great way to attract people to come into the town and bring the community together,'" she said. "We came out to support the inaugural Hoptown Half and 5K, and it was a beautiful morning and a great turnout."

Christoforou said the course was very well marked and the water stations were right on time.

"I got to see many families out there getting pictures of the runners, which was very nice," she recalled. "And there were lots of hydration stations, which is a plus for any race."

Laura Logan of Charleston, Missouri, came to see her brother, Cadiz resident John Bloecher, race in the festival's half-marathon and declared the festival itself to be "super fun."

It was a good family day with food, music and lots of cute stuff, Logan noted.

As she visited with her family in front of a Hollywood-style sign spelling out the community's well-known nickname of "Hoptown," members of the festival's featured Cayce and the Moonlight Band entertained festival-goers just a few feet away onstage at Little River Park.

Among their selections: "Play that Funky Music," which had been a particular hit for the 1970s rock band Wild Cherry and which has been performed by others in more recent years.

The downtown festival also attracted Hopkinsville residents Ryan and Nicole Bufford, who were walking among the event's different offerings just to see what was going on.

"It's fall time," Ryan Bufford noted. "We just want to come out and enjoy all the vendors."

Hopkinsville Parks and Recreation Director Tab Brockman said officials were extremely pleased with all aspects of the race this year. Altogether, 632 participants registered, including 379 in the half-marathon and 253 in the festival's 5K, and the director noted that feedback on social media "has been absolutely overwhelming in a good way," according to Brockman.

Racers said the event was well-organized, he said, and they particularly liked features such as water stations provided every mile and people who provided encouragement along the route.

The shirts and medals that featured the town's local clock tower were also a hit.

Brockman said the half-marathon and 5K courses overlapped, with both beginning at Ferrell's Snappy Service downtown and finishing just west of the Little River Bridge on Ninth Street.

The course included runners from 16 states, and Korey Raymond was the race director.

Half-marathon winner Averitt of Clarksville was top male and overall, with a time of 1 hour, 16 minutes and 44 seconds, and top female Lovely of Clarksville ran the course in 1 hour, 20 minutes and 26 seconds. In the 5K, Christoforou of Fort Campbell was the top female winner and the overall winner, with a time of 18 minutes and 52 seconds.

Top male winner in that race was Scott Freeman of Clarksville, with a time of 19 minutes, 36 seconds.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at tgrace@kentuckynewera.com or Zirconia Alleyne at zalleyne@kentuckynewera.com.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.