20th pumpkin festival lauded by organizers

Sam Odrowski

The 20th-annual Rainy River Giant Pumpkin Festival came to Hannam Park on Saturday for a day of fun contests, games, shopping, and prizes.
The cold weather may have kept some folks at home but the event still saw a great level of support, with about 150 people coming through the park.
“It was very successful,” said festival president Valerie Leininger. “Cold but successful.”
Entries were down overall this year but a great showing of unique and large vegetables was on display.
Fred Gate managed to win first place for heaviest pumpkin, weighing in at 342 pounds, as well as second place for heaviest adult pumpkin (311).
Adrian Trenchard landed third place in the adult category with his 281-pound pumpkin while Nancy Gate took fourth place (260).
She also won “Rookie of the Year.”
In the junior category, Kendra Trenchard earned second place for her 263-pound pumpkin, Eva Lemmon was third (229), and fourth place went to Keenan L’heureux and Kevin Markevich (212).
Hidden weight in the adult category went to Norma Blight for her 79-pound pumpkin while the hidden weight in the junior category went to Hudson Seguin.
Melissa Venables received first place for best decorated pumpkin in the adult category while Ellie Yeo-Forsyth was awarded first place in the junior category, followed by LLPCC Kids and Kyushu Nason.
Another notable winner was Ed Maryniuk, who won both the largest sunflower and largest sunflower head categories for his 14-and-a-half-foot tall entry.
Leininger was happy to see all of the different giant pumpkins at the festival but thought they would be a little heavier with all the heat the district had this summer.
I expected bigger weights,” she admitted. “We had larger weights last year.
“Probably 11 years ago, before I was involved, they have had 900-, 1,000-pounders.”
Leininger attributed the lighter pumpkins to the lack of rain over the summer months.
Despite the smaller weights, she still thinks the event saw a great response from the community this year.
“I think this year a lot of people did a lot of shopping between the farmers’ market and our vendors tables,” Leininger enthused.
“That was big,” she noted. “A lot of people spent money there.”
Leininger also said there was much excitement in the air among the youths who participated in the junior contests at the festival.
“It’s pretty rewarding for the little ones when they get to bring home some cash,” she remarked.
“They’re always excited.”
There’s also lots of anticipation felt by the crowd during the pumpkin weigh-ins. Leininger said it’s quite the spectacle.
“When we’re weighing them, everybody just gathers around and can’t wait to see what the weight is,” she smiled.
There also is a real sense of community at the event, with the decor and wooden structures being painted by kids at the Rainy River day care centre, elementary school, and high school.
Leininger was extremely pleased with the help the festival received from volunteers, noting many of them went above and beyond to make things run smoothly.
“The volunteers really contributed to its success,” she lauded. “There were a lot of people helping that did more than what they were asked to do.
“I can’t say thank you enough to everybody that volunteers and helps.”
Looking ahead, Leininger already is excited for next year and noted organizers have a few new ideas they hope to put into action regarding new categories.
“We look forward to doing this every year,” she enthused.
“We love getting people growing and it’s exciting to have kids learning how to grow things.”