New pumpkin king crowned

Carole Morris-Underhill
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While most people cringe at the thought of being considered the heaviest in any competition, the competitors at the 26th Annual Pumpkin Weigh-off were hoping to tip the scales.

The top contestants — those with pumpkins weighing over 1,000 lbs — left the Hants County Exhibition grounds Oct. 2 radiating pumpkin pride.

Jeff Reid of Waterville took home the grand prize of $1,000 after growing a 1,419 lb (644 kg) pumpkin. Last year, he was the runner up, being beaten by New Brunswicker Bill Northrup who holds the Atlantic record for heaviest pumpkin. That record stands at 1,432 lbs (650 kg)

During the Oct. 2 festival, Reid’s pumpkin was the second to last to be weighed —keeping the crowd gathered at the weigh-off on the edge of their seats.

“I’ve been doing really well since 2006. Over the years (the weight) just keeps going up,” said Reid immediately following his big win.

“I feel very honoured to have this privilege to keep growing them this big.”

Clifford Picketts, of Kensington, P.E.I., came in second place this year with a pumpkin weighing 1,318 lbs (598 kg)

Gerard Ansems, of Kentville, took third place with a 1,220 lb (533 kg) pumpkin.

Ansems credits the first place winner with his fine pumpkin finish.

Reid, the gardening guru behind Annopolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers, gave Ansems some of his seeds in the spring.

“I’ve been growing for quite a few years but this is my first time over 1,000 lbs,” said Ansems. “I had no idea how heavy mine was going to be.”

First-year giant  pumpkin grower Jackie Rand, of Port Williams, was also in for a surprise during the weigh-off. She thought it would be neat to see her masterpiece tip the scales at 1,000 lbs.

When the announcer told the Port Williams farmer the pumpkin officially weighed 1,101 lbs (499 kg), she couldn’t contain her excitement.

“I can’t believe it myself,” said Rand following the weigh-off.

“I knew I wasn’t going to win or anything so I was just hoping for 1,000 lbs — that sounded really awesome. I couldn’t believe 1,101 lbs.”

Rand credits this year’s success with sheer luck.

“I have to attribute it to my husband’s cow manure and my sheep manure that was all in one spot because I made a lot of mistakes this year,” she said.

Like many first-time growers, Rand didn’t realize that only one giant pumpkin should be allowed to grow on each vine.

“There’s one there that I know must weigh 500 lbs,” said Rand. It was on the same vine as her 1,101 lb pumpkin.

With first-year jitters out of the way, she plans on coming back next with a bigger and better pumpkin.

Growing giant vegetables has become a hobby for many farmers in the Maritimes. Reid encourages anyone interested in trying their hand at growing a specialized pumpkin to contact a local growers association and get started.

“It’s a great hobby and it’s a lot of fun if you like to grow things,” said Reid.

In the giant squash competition, Alan Aten of Springvale, P.E.I. submitted the heftiest squash weighing 1,035 lbs (470 kg)

In the field pumpkin category, McInnis took home the first place prize for his 142 lb (64 kg) pumpkin. Mary Moore, of Middleton, came in second with an 86 lb (39 kg) entry while Diane Levy, of Hubbards, took third place with her 82 lb (37 kg) pumpkin.

Alisha Bowes-Trinacty, of Windsor, grew the heaviest watermelon. It weighed in at 20 lbs (9 kg).

The Hilda Dill Award (for the most perfect pumpkin) went to the Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers.

Brad and Thomas Murphy, of Berwick, submitted the longest corn stalks. They measured 167 inches. The Murphys also won in the heaviest tomato category, with a weight of 1.229 kg.

Ronald Crowell, of Shelburne County, had the longest gourd. It measured 99 inches.

The Peter Dunfield Award, presented to the grower of the heaviest pumpkin in Hants County, went to Danny Dill who submitted an 890 lb (404 kg) pumpkin.

The GPC Howard Dill Award was presented to Avis Swinimer of New Ross.

Organizations: Hants County Exhibition, Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers

Geographic location: Atlantic, Port Williams, Kensington Kentville Springvale Middleton Hubbards Windsor Berwick Shelburne County Hants County New Ross

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