Kakabeka man shatters record at pumpkin fest

A heavyweight weighed heavy on the minds of pumpkin festival organizers Saturday in Rainy River when they discovered they had an entry that weighed more than their scale could register.
With only two pumpkins left to weigh out of 51, and one already tipping the
scales at 960 pounds, organizers ran into a wall. The scale they were using
only went to 500 kg, or 1,100 pounds.
Thinking the pumpkin of Ben Johnson, 43, of Kakabeka was smaller than defending champ Don Cronk’s, the weigh team put it on the scale. But after reaching 500 kg, it shut down.
So they decided to weigh the last pumpkin from Cronk, who hails from Thunder Bay.
“If it weighs, we know the other one is heavier and is the winner,” reasoned weigh team member Guy Arpin. “However, we would like to have a weight for the record books.”
So spectator Rudy Sinninghe was sent over to Reg Kaus’ place to get a scale
he uses to weigh round bales of hay.
As it turned out, Cronk’s pumpkin weighed in at 1,032 pounds—shattering the old festival record he set just last year (945).
Everyone knew who the winner was, but just by how much was the $1,000 question!
When the hay bale scale was used, the crowd went “Ooooooohhhhhh!”
Johnson’s monster pumpkin weighed a whopping 1,173 pounds and earned him $1,000 for first place.
Cronk had to settle for second place and $500. Johnson also took third place with his 960-pounder ($100).
Johnson said the key to his success was good seed, this year’s hot weather,
and plenty of water and manure.
“I watered every chance I had. Sometimes morning, noon, and night,” he recalled.
While Johnson did not keep track of the amount of water he gave the 35’x70’ pumpkin patch, he said he often put the hose on and just let it run.
The seed he used was called 1039-Lenard from Whalen, Ont. “This seed
tends to weigh heavy,” noted Johnson, who has been growing giant pumpkins for 10 years now.
This was his second time winning the Rainy River pumpkin festival, having also topped the field in 2002 with 729 pounds.
Breaking the 1,000-pound barrier was a dream of festival founder Dr. Ewen
Affleck, who no longer lives in Rainy River but surely will be proud of this
The first year (1995), he held the event in his back yard with about 50 people in attendance. And the winning pumpkin was 186 pounds grown by Gord Olson.
In the junior growers competition, it was Kyle Olson who came in first with
405 pounds. He won $50.
His sister, Kira, came in second (294 pounds) to earn $25 while Damon Short pocketed $10 for his third-place finish (251 pounds).
New prize categories—open to both adult and junior growers—were added to this year’s festival to try and boost the number of entries.
Closest to 100 pounds was Fran Faragher (99 pounds), closest to 200 pounds was Ron Lemmon (188), closest to 300 pounds was Kira Olson (294), closest to 400 pouns was Kyle Olson (405), and closest to 500 pounds was Don Hammer (513).
They each received $100 in prize money.
Kyle Olson won an addition 100 pounds for coming closest to the hdden weight of 398 pounds.
Meanwhile, in the annual seed-spitting contest, Guy Arpin led the adults with 26’1” while Dylan Spivak topped the teen category at 22’4”.
Kyle Olson won the 12-and-under division with a 17’1” spit.
< *c>Other prizes
•Tallest sunflower—Fran Faragher (13’ 8”)
•Oddest vegetable—1. Vivian Hartnell 2. Inge Szeder
•Best vegetable display—Marion Haddock
•Best pumpkin dessert—Dorothy Wiersema
•Best pumpkin pie—Inge Szeder
•Ugliest pumpkin—Jane Johnson
•Best decorated pumpkin—1. Skylar Arpin 2. Donna Wolanicki 3. Grade
1/2 class (Riverview School)
•Most attractive pumpkin—Leona Skolen
•Rookie grower of the year—Roger Spivak of Thunder Bay (905 pounds)