Baudette youth tops pumpkin festival

It was a battle of past champions at the Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival last Saturday in Rainy River.
Last year’s champion, Jim Marken of Baudette, Mn., made it a family affair this year by having his kids grow pumpkins for the competition.
Little did he know, he would be spelling his own defeat.
Marken said his pumpkin, which ended up in third place at 548 pounds, was growing at a rate that he thought would surely tip the scales at 900 pounds.
“Then all of a sudden, it quit growing about a month ago,” he remarked.
But his son, Levi, six, had a pumpkin that grew slowly but steadily–steady enough to win the coveted “golden hoe” and the $1,000 first prize over 31 other entries.
The youngster’s pumpkin weighed in at 659 pounds. While that was slightly lighter than his dad’s winning 691-pounder last year, it was enough to fend off 1999 champ Don Cronk.
Cronk, of Thunder Bay, weighed in at 581 pounds with a pumpkin that he didn’t expect to grow like it did. He planted it at his sister’s house and did very little to care for it except water it with cold water once a week.
At home, he was busy fertilizing and supplying a steady stream of warm water, but still could not yield the results of the fast-growing pumpkin at his sister’s place.
Marken said the secret to his continued success in pumpkin growing came from using soaker hoses to give the plants plenty of water. His pumpkin patch consisted of four plants covering an area 60’ x 80’.
He also used dark tubs to heat the water before giving it to the plants. “You have to keep the leaves dry,” he explained.
Marken used seeds from last year’s winning pumpkin but said he’s planning to try some new varieties for next year. He really has taken the sport of pumpkin growing quite seriously, and even has invested in an official Howard Dill Pumpkin Carrier.
Dill is the man who started the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin craze with his special hybrid seeds.
Also posing a serious challenge to the Markens and Cronk on Saturday was Wayne Both of Barwick. He holds the record for the largest pumpkin ever weighed in at the Rainy River pumpkin festival–and proved he’s still in the hunt for another “golden hoe.”
He weighed in two pumpkins this year that nearly tipped the 500-pound mark (480 and 440).
The Markens also did well in the heaviest pumpkin by a junior grower category. Levi captured first and $50 while his sister, Jordan, took second with a 267-pound pumpkin.
Kyle Olson of Rainy River came in third with a 259-pounder.
Rookie of the Year was Jordan Marken while Rod Gubbels of Baudette won the hidden weight prize with his 188-pound entry. Ugliest pumpkin honours went to Dorothy Wiersema of Rainy River.
Most attractive pumpkin went to Kim McKenzie of Bergland, with the CIBC staff winning for the smallest pumpkin.
The Singleton family of Rainy River topped the best decorated pumpkin category, followed Judy Gubbels of Baudette and the grade 1/2 class at Riverview School.
The best pumpkin dessert was made by Iris Osadchuk, who also won the guess-the-pumpkin’s weight contest. It was 158 pounds–and she guessed it right on.
Oddest overall vegetable was won by Nicky Dorie of Stratton with a Siamese set of pumpkins, followed by Elsa Hanson. Best vegetable display was won by Inge Szeder of Emo, with second going to Alissa Penner of Rainy River.
The pumpkin seed-spitting contest was won by Mike McQuaker of Rainy River, who spit one 38’ 2”. That beat out Guy Arpin, who had held the lead much of the contest at more than 37’.
Winning the youth category was Brenley Anderson of Rainy River (18’6”) while Emily Fraser of Rainy River captured the kids’ cateory (6’ 7”).
The tallest sunflower category was a tied between Dawn Graham and Bob Locking, who both grew plants that measured 12’4”.
About 400 people were on hand to take part in the event and organizers said while entries were down from past years, they were pleased with the entire day.