‘Heavy’ competition expected for annual pumpkin festival

The fourth-annual Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival is set to go Saturday, Oct. 3 at Hannam Park in Rainy River, and organizer Dr. Ewan Affleck said this year’s crop could be big.
Dr. Affleck said he’s heard rumours of pumpkins being grown in the district that weigh more than 600 pounds–far surpassing Kenny Trenchard’s champion pumpkin last year of 456 pounds (the heaviest one weighed at the festival so far).
In fact, this year’s entries are supposed to be so big that Dr. Affleck has reserved a small forklift to help when it comes time to hoist the pumpkins on the scale.
“There are two I know that are rumoured to be over 700 pounds and then another one I don’t know how big,” he said yesterday from his office in Rainy River.
“I think this year was a good growing year,” he added. “I think we’ll be surprised.”
Last year’s festival attracted 100 pumpkins to Hannam Park–75 for the weight contest and 25 in the best decorated category.
First prize for the heaviest pumpkin is $1,000 plus the coveted Golden Hoe award. Second and third-place winners will take home $200 and $100 respectively.
Awards also will be handed out for the heaviest pumpkin grown by an adolescent, ugliest pumpkin, most attractive pumpkin, smallest pumpkin, plus a rookie growers’ award.
The heaviest Kelsae onion and oddest vegetable categories also return to the festival, along with two new categories for the heaviest tomato and tallest sunflower
“We’re trying to re-invoke the spirit of the old harvest festivals,” Dr. Affleck noted, adding several children’s activities also have been planned, including a free concert at noon on the big dock by children’s entertainer Jake Chenier.
“He’s a singer/songwriter,” Dr. Affleck said. “He’s played at the Winnipeg Folk Festival, North Dakota, Toronto–he’s been all over the place.”
The day gets underway with the “Pumpkin Pancake Breakfast” under the big tent from 9:30-11 a.m. Registration for the growing contest begins at 10 a.m., and all pumpkins have to be in by 1 p.m.
Judging gets underway at 2 p.m., with the awards ceremony to be held at 3:30 p.m. A family square dance will follow under the tent at 5 p.m.
Dr. Affleck said he hopes to see the pumpkin festival grow into a truly regional event, with about 50 or so serious pumpkin growers.
“There is the World Pumpkin Confederation,” he said. “If we have a certain amount of pumpkins over 400 pounds, we could become a site. They have around 10 sites across North America.”
The current world record for the heaviest pumpkin is 1,061 pounds, grown by Nathan and Paula Zehr of Lowville, N.Y.