Ready, set, grow!

It’s a gardening event of behemoth proportions where pumpkin growers across the district vie for the $1,000 grand prize and bragging rights for an entire year–not to mention the coveted “Golden Hoe.”
The Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival is gearing up for another year of competition, with the weigh-in date set for Saturday, Oct. 3 at Hannam Park in Rainy River.
Even though it’s still too early to plant the pumpkin seeds outside, serious pumpkin growers already have started to germinate their Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds indoors to be transplanted after the threat of a late frost has passed.
Festival mascot Max Citrouille, speaking for organizer Dr. Ewan Affleck, noted the event has picked up a fair bit of steam just a few years after its inception, drawing in people from both sides of the border and as far away as Vermilion Bay.
“Pumpkin growing has many attractive features,” Citrouille said. “Foremost among them is that it is virtually free, requiring only a seed, a piece of arable land, and an ample amount of cow manure.
“Furthermore, pumpkin growing is a non-contact sport and knows complete sex and age parity,” he added. “Lastly, it is a community sport that brings people together in a spirit of fraternal competition and camaraderie.”
Kenny Trenchard is the festival’s reigning pumpkin champion, setting the local record with his 456-pound entry last year.
The ironic thing is Trenchard won with his “back-up” entry. Growing on the same vine was another pumpkin weighing about 600 pounds but it rotted out just 10 days prior to the festival.
“What is incredible about this accomplishment is that Mr. Trenchard had never before grown pumpkins competitively,” Citrouille said. “For his efforts, he also won the rookie-of-the-year award.
“Trenchard is the man to beat at this year’s Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival,” he added.
In additional to the grand prize for heaviest pumpkin, $200 and $100 have been set aside for the second and third-place winners, plus a $50 and $25 prize for the top two junior pumpkin growers (elementary school students).
Also up for grabs are prizes for largest Chelsea onion, largest tomato, best pumpkin pie and dessert, plus many others. All for the $3 cost of a membership to the festival association, Citrouille said, which can be paid right before you exhibit your pumpkin.
“With good fertile soil, careful tending, and a modicum of good luck, anyone is a potential 1,000-pound pumpkin grower,” he noted.
“And if at the end of the season your pumpkin falls short of the mark, it matters little for the joy of growing is the greatest reward in this, the gentles of sports,” he concluded.