MORTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Our Central Illinois Road Trip takes us to Morton. This week, thousands of pumpkin lovers are expected to visit the village for its annual Pumpkin Festival.

With the start of fall just around the corner, the pumpkin capital of the world is playing host to its 56th annual Pumpkin Festival.

“We still produce 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin, so it’s just fun to come together and really share that taste of Morton,” said Leigh Ann Brown, executive director of Morton Chamber of Commerce.

The theme for this year’s four-day festival in Morton is “Pumpkins Go 80’s”, a nod to the generations that have visited the festival. Mayor Jeff Kaufman said each year the event is a regional draw.

“We draw around 75,000 people coming to Morton for this festival,” Kaufman said.

Brown said that the thousands that visit Morton leave their mark on the village’s economy.

“As we’ve experienced especially the last couple of years, it’s vital for businesses to have new customers and those shopping locally,” Brown said.

How is Morton, with a population of around 17,000, able to hold an event for around 75,000 thousand people? The answer is more than 2,000 dedicated volunteers.

“It takes a village. Our village, our community members really rise above,” Brown said.

Mayor Kaufman said the fun that the pumpkin festival offers makes it hard to visit just one time.

“I think if you come to visit and see one festival, you’ll be here for years,” Kaufman said.

Events taking place the weekend before the Morton Pumpkin Festival

The weekend prior to the Morton Pumpkin Festival is filled with activities for the community. Whether it’s the Village’s pickleball tournament or the annual fishing derby at Kennel Lake.

“I love fishing myself, I’m very passionate about it. So just trying to give back to the community and get young kids interested in fishing so they can enjoy it the rest of their lives,” said Chuck Hart with Bob Grimm Chevrolet, sponsor of the fishing derby.

The weekend, which is driven by volunteers, not only gives the community a chance to find their interests but activities like geocaching highlight what Morton has to offer.

“The cool thing about geocaching is if you go and do all 15 locations you get a chance to go around to all of our parks and get to see some parks you haven’t seen before,” said Joel Dickerson, executive director of Morton Park District.

The director of the Morton Tennis Open, Kevin Miller, said the weekend is filled with familiar faces and they welcome unfamiliar ones as well.

“It’s great to see new tennis players coming out and playing in our event,” Miller said.

The Morton Pumpkin Festival continues through Saturday, September 17.