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Perfect weather, plenty of people at Wellington’s Pumpkinfest

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
The sun shone down on Wellington Saturday in what was one of the biggest and best Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest events in recent memory.

A cool start to the day soon warmed up as crowds poured into the village for a delightful day of giant pumpkins and vegetables, smiling faces and plenty of fun for everybody.

The sold-out pancake breakfast hosted by The Friends of the Wellington Heritage Museum was immensely popular, with just a short wait for an available seat through most of the morning. Patrons were entertained by Eric Pilgrim and Friends.

With bellies full, the long parade crawled along Main Street, and children squealed with excitement as candy was tossed in their direction. There were ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as the giant bright orange pumpkins were trucked by, where many who hadn’t experienced the behemoths before, and which locals often take for granted, were in awe.

Activities were held in Wellington Park, along Main Street, the museum, library, churches and the lawns and parking lot of CML Snider Elementary School. Children’s activities and games included a pum’kin sweep’n roll, ringers, pumpkin match, corn toss, harvest bowling, tic-tac-toe, and sack throw, and the Wellington Dukes hockey team dropped in briefly to carve pumpkins.

Activities kept the downtown buzzing for most of the day – including a petting zoo, rock climbing wall, artisans, vendors; a craft show and bake sale. Many enjoyed horse-drawn wagon rides around the village.

The 1,000 apple dumplings created by members of the Hillier Women’s Institute sold out in record time (by 9:30am).

Brief opening ceremonies at the 23rd annual PEC Pumpkinfest were held at noon with greetings from PEC mayor Steve Ferguson, Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith and Wellington councillor Mike Harper. The Belleville Concert Band opened with the playing and singing of Oh Canada.

Harper spoke to the level of effort organizer Bob Greer has put into the event in the years he has been doing it, an event Harper noted Greer’s father built.

“It’s an amazing event and reflects a great tradition for Wellington and the community,” said Harper. “Bob has a big heart, he loves the kids, the families coming together, it’s a free event and it’s something for everybody to do from all points of the County.”

Greer reminded the crowd that none of this could happen without the volunteers, of whom there are too many to thank, but he specifically mentioned the Wellington Recreation Committee, the Rotary Club and the Wellington Elks.

Mayor Ferguson said Wellington sure knows how to throw a party – and show off gigantic pumpkins, adding it was great celebration of rural heritage.

Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith noted he was pleased to see so many smiling faces enjoying another great Pumpkinfest in Wellington and recalled when Bob’s dad, Bill, started the Wellington Pumpkinfest.

“Bill was a pretty good pumpkin grower at the time,” said Smith, as he recalled his days as a local journalist, and had the opportunity to introduce Bill Greer on a radio show.

“It was about how to grow a large pumpkin, and probably the science has changed a bit over the years,” he said. “Bill would talk about how they had the right soil, and there may have been some milk involved back in the day. It’s a science growing these large gourds and it’s great to see this happening year-after-year, and the crowds getting bigger and bigger every year in Wellington as well.”

The impressive free event is put together by a dedicated contingent of volunteers led by Greer who works with the Prince Edward County Pumpkin Growers, the Pumpkinfest committee of volunteers and the Wellington Recreation Committee to ensure a successful event for the enjoyment of the community.

“This Pumpkinfest has taken on a life of its own,” he laughed. “There’s something going on here, and it’s not about pumpkins. It’s about people coming to the community, being here with your families and just enjoying your friends.”

Greer acknowledged the huge community support from the rec committee, the different service clubs, and the hockey teams.

“Young and old, they’ve got a smile on their face. You can spend a bit of money if you want, but you don’t have to, it’s a free event which makes us a little different to most things that you do today.”

He said it is his job to get a 1,000 people in town and it’s up to the volunteers and the different organizations to give them something that they want.

“If you give them something that has value, you’ll be successful,” Greer says of the low-budget, big-impact autumn celebration.

“Dad grew giant pumpkins and when he started I wasn’t really involved too much, but when he got sick, he needed a hand and that was around the year 2000. We have evolved over time and we are still here because the community supports it, and they see value here for some reason,” added Greer.

An impressive line-up of live musical entertainment included favourites such as Grampa’s Goodtime Gang in the town hall, and Terry Brooks, Ken Hudson, the Cold Creek Cloggers, and Sharon and Ian Graham in the gazebo. New to Pumpkinfest this year, the Belleville Concert Band also played on the front steps of the school. The 35-member band, whose members range in age from 20s to 80s, performed an extensive repertoire from The Beach Boys and Michael Bublé, to Broadway musical hits, theme songs from Pirates of the Caribbean and Star Trek, to Tijuana Brass.

The band describes itself as Canada’s newest community concert band.

“The band is only five-months-old and we are a non-profit organization who are looking for more skilled musicians to join our fun group of happy band people,” said John Monachan, director of music.

“It’s a mixture of professional and amateur musicians who just want to get together and pursue their passion of playing music that they might have learned in high school.” Monachan said the band welcomes all ages and skills from high-school students to seniors.

Pumpkinfest is also about pumpkins, whether it’s miniature pumpkins for tossing, pumpkins for carving or painting, or the giant variety for admiring.

The much-anticipated annual weigh-off ran all afternoon at the school parking lot and included a 50/50-style ‘guess the pumpkin weight’ event.

An awards ceremony concluded the day with ribbons and prize money. It was also noted that the individual who had come the farthest to see a giant pumpkin at the weigh-off was from Nevada, USA.

This year’s giant pumpkins fell a little short compared to last year’s numbers with Dan Clement of Napanee taking top spot at 1,674 pounds, a personal best for him. It comes with $1,000 in prize money. (Last year’s heaviest giant pumpkin, grown by Quebec’s Harley Sproule, weighed 1,761.5 pounds).

Organizers said there were 13 official entries in the giant pumpkin category this year. They noted entries were down a little compared to previous years, but also noted it has been a tough weather year, but said they were happy with what they ended up with.

The giant pumpkin leader board reads as follows:
1st place: Dan Clement (1,674 pounds)
2nd place: Todd Kline (1,621.5 lbs)
3rd place: Norm Kyle (1,420 lbs)
4th place: Shannon Desjardin (1,121.5 lbs)
5th place: Chris Lyons (1,114 lbs)
6th place: Matt Desjardin (1,082 lbs)
7th place: Dan Langridge (1,012.5 lbs)
8th place: Jim Reid (985.5 lbs)
9th place: M. Fox (938.5 lbs)
10th place: Annette Langridge (888.5 lbs).

The giant cabbage category went to Jim Reid at 71 pounds, with second place at 53 pounds for Carter Black, and third, at eight pounds, went to Dan Langridge.

In the field pumpkin section, first place went to Todd Kline at 91 pounds, M. Fox took second place at 79.5 pounds, and third went to Jim Reid at 78 pounds.

Carter Black took top spot for giant watermelon at 171.5 pounds. Second place went to Steve and Jennifer Black at 161.5 pounds.

The tallest sunflower went to S-L. Bell at 243 1/3 inches. Second place went to Nick Body at 242 ¼ inches, and third went to Jim Reid at 241 3/8 inches.

Greg Montgomery grew the largest tomato at 6.03 pounds. Second was Todd Kline at 4.38 pounds, and third place went to Jim Reid at 3.57 pounds.

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