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Pumpkinfest celebrates the heavyweights in Wellington

Pumpkinfest giants rolled through town during the parade

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
Fierce, but friendly competition saw the heaviest pumpkin weigh in at 1,761.5 pounds Saturday during Pumpkinfest at Wellington.

Secrets to success by growers ranges from using seaweed or fish to maple syrup and some even use milk.

Harley Sproule of Ormstown, Quebec with the Wellington contest’s heaviest pumpkin weighing in at 1,761.5 pounds.

“It all starts with the seed,” said Harley Sproule of Ormstown, Quebec who took top spot at the Prince Edward County Pumpkin Growers Association event Saturday. “And then it’s about the weather – heat and moisture,” he said.

The giant was a personal best for beating his former top weight of 1,654.5 pounds.

The 22nd annual Pumpkinfest celebrations started early with a traditional made-from–scratch pancake breakfast in the Town Hall with Eric Pilgrim and Friends providing musical accompaniment. Though dark clouds and a few rain spots threatened early in the morning, the festival day ended up glowing orange under cool, but mostly sunny skies.

Thousands lined Wellington Main Street for the annual parade – one of the longest in recent memory. Following the Royal Canadian Legion branch members and the Napanee and District Caledonia Pipe Band, there were horses and scarecrows, music and clowns, ghosts and ghouls, lots of free candy and, of course, giant pumpkins.

Live entertainment continued through the afternoon in Wellington Park. The petting zoo proved popular with goats and sheep and alpacas – each reluctantly donning an orange pumpkin hat – as well as ducks and chickens and a pony.

Along with the rock climbing wall, vendor booths filled the park.

Artisans, community booths and craft tables could be found at various spots along Main Street.

The Hillier Women’s Institute’s famous apple dumplings which always sell out quickly. You can enquire about the recipe, but it’s top secret.

The Town Hall housed Grampa’s Goodtime Gang, there was a kids’ zone on the front lawn at CML Snider School, a craft show and sale at St. Andrew’s Anglican Church Parish Hall and home-made pie at Wellington United Church. The library and museum also hosted visitors.

Wellington winners pose for a 2018 grower families photo.

But the big focus, was on the pumpkins.

Records don’t get broken too often in the pumpkin world and not necessarily every year, but the month of October is a time when records can be smashed only to be short-lived as weigh-ins around the world are completed through the month. In the world of giant pumpkins, there are Canadian records, provincial records, world records and personal bests.

The world’s heaviest pumpkin record has been holding since 2016 at 2,624.6 pounds, grown by Mathias Willemijns of Belgium. The previous world record had stood for two years at 2,323 pounds. However, growers are awaiting word on whether twins Stuart and Ian Paton have set a new world record. Thy hold the UK record at 2,269 pounds. (UPDATE: They broke their own record, but not the world record weighing in at 2,433.9 pounds – the second biggest in the world and the biggest in Europe.)

Last weekend, the Canadian record was smashed by Phil and Jane Hunt, of Cameron, Ontario (Kawartha Lakes) with a giant pumpkin weighing 1,959 pounds at the Woodbridge Fall Fair. The previous Canadian record was set three years earlier at 1,877 pounds.

While weights in the United States and Europe have long passed the 2,000 pound mark, growers in Canada, (where regulations prohibit some of the chemicals used elsewhere), have yet to hit that mark.

Second place winner Todd Kline with his 1,497.5 pound pumpkin.

At Pumpkinfest’s weigh-off, the giant pumpkin category saw pumpkins in different colours and shapes: traditional deep orange pumpkins, pale orange, off-white and pale green; some were rounded, others flatter and one pumpkin was shaped like a bean bag and looked good for sitting.

The event saw the top ten winners exceed 1,000 pounds, with many far surpassing that figure. Todd Kline received second place at 1,497.5 pounds and Dan Clement got third spot at 1,478.5 pounds.

Shannon Desjardins took first place in the giant squash category 748.5 pounds. She also won the Bill Greer Memorial Prize for Heaviest Pumpkin grown in Prince Edward County this year at 1,170 pounds.

Second place went to Dan Langridge at 735 pounds. Dan placed eighth with his giant pumpkin at 1,138.5 pounds – which also won the Howard Dill Award for the nicest looking pumpkin over 600 pounds. Annette Langridge was third with her 570 pound entry.

Carter Black placed first in the giant watermelon category at 200.5 pounds. He also won the 4H Award for Heaviest Pumpkin grown by a 4H member, at 919.5 pounds.
Todd Kline’s watermelon won second spot at 100 pounds and Shannon Desjardins placed third at 66 pounds.

Jim Reid’s 49 pound giant cabbage got him first place; Mark Fox was second with 40.5 pounds and Carter Black placed third at 33 pounds.

At 161.5 inches, Nick Body took home the prize for the tallest sunflower. Mark Fox was second at 159.5 inches and Jim Reid’s measured 156 inches.

The weigh-off of giant things was coupled with contests for smaller, but still large tomatoes, melons, sunflower heads, carrots, field pumpkins and gourds, including the pear gourd and a new official gourd, the bushel gourd.

The day’s big winner has been growing giant pumpkins since 1996, but he was surprised to learn his giant pumpkin was the heaviest of the day at 1,761.5 pounds.

“I thought it was heavy,” Sproule said, describing the technique of tapping the pumpkin throughout the growing season. He said it was a good growing season as it was hot, but noted the pumpkin needed a lot of water.

Sproule grew three giant pumpkin seeds this year; one pumpkin broke in half, the other was too low in weight early on, so he persevered with just one which wasn’t without challenges. Sproule used a mother seed, 2145 McMullen pumpkin seed. “They come from the US, but they are getting harder to come by,” he added.

Sproule said his pumpkin got mosaic virus, as many pumpkins do and many pumpkin growers battle with diseases he said.

“This one grew out of it and turned out OK. I think it may have been 50 to 100 pounds heavier though had it not got the disease.”

“Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one,” – Linus in “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown


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