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Big top to cover pumpkin festival

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Extra shelter has been rounded up for the fifth-annual Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival, which goes this Saturday at Hannam Park in Rainy River.

Dr. Ewan Affleck, who started the event in 1995, said the same tent used last weekend for the walleye tournament will be set up for the festival, along with the other tent they normally use.

“So this way, if it pours rain, we’ll be fine,” he said. “Rain or shine, we’ll be protected.”

Just how many people enter their pumpkins won’t be known until Saturday, with registration going from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. While he is hoping for a good turnout, Dr. Affleck didn’t think the festival would attract the same record-breaking number of 104 entries like it did last year due to poor growing conditions across most of Northwestern Ontario.

“People even with the market pumpkins couldn’t bear fruit,” he noted. “It was a really difficult year to grow.”

Still, Dr. Affleck said there should be some good-sized pumpkins coming in. One man from Thunder Bay has confirmed he’ll be bringing his giant pumpkin, rumoured to weigh between 500-600 pounds.

Several local growers are rumoured to have 400-pound pumpkins, he noted, and several more are in the 300-plus categories.

“It should be a level playing field,” Dr. Affleck said.

One person back in the running this year is Sheldon Mose, whose 738-pound pumpkin fell just four pounds short of Wayne Booth’s 742-pound monster last year.

Booth’s efforts at defending his title were hampered early on this year when his plant was decapitated by a greenhouse that blew away, Dr. Affleck said.

“I think he’s going for the biggest-change-in-one-year category, except it’s the wrong way,” he chuckled.

The heaviest pumpkin will win $1,000, not to mention the coveted “Gold Hoe.” But prizes are available in several categories, including the ugliest and smallest pumpkins. Plus the tomato, sunflower, and oddest vegetable contests are all free to enter.

Several children’s activities also are planned at the pumpkin festival, including a magic workshop and magic show by Greg Wood. All of which has Dr. Affleck hoping the weather co-operates to help draw as many people as possible.

“It would be fun if people came from all over Northwestern Ontario,” he said. “It would be nice if it became a regional thing.”

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