Pickup trucks pulled up to the big tent at Hannam Park in Rainy River on Saturday only minutes before the 1 p.m. registration deadline as owners of the district’s biggest pumpkins wanted to keep them under wraps as long as possible.
In total, 48 pumpkins were entered in the sixth-annual Rainy River Valley Giant Pumpkin Festival as locals and out-of towners alike vied for the $1,000 grand prize and the coveted “Golden Hoe” award.
One contender even brought a pumpkin all the way from Edmonton to enter in the competition but this year’s winner went to someone who hails from just across the border.
Baudette resident Jim Marken had the heaviest pumpkin, tipping the scales at 691 pounds—more than 180 pounds heavier than runners-up Ewan and Alexandre Affleck of Rainy River (508).
They took home $200.
Taking third place—and the $100 prize—was Sheldon Mose of Emo, whose pumpkin weighed in at 496 pounds.Third place was taken by Ewan and Alexandre Affleck of Rainy River with a weight of 496 pounds.
Last year’s winner from Thunder Bay didn’t show up to defend his title due to a reported mishap with his pumpkin.
“Give yourselves a round of applause. This is a great event and we appreciate everyone doing it,” said Marken, as other competitors pleaded with him to reveal his secrets.
“As for secrets, there aren’t really any secrets,” he replied as the crowd laughed. “For those of you who are interested, I’d say first find a good provider for your seed.”
Marken’s son, Levi, also took a prize for the biggest pumpkin in the junior category (287 pounds), winning $50.
He was followed by Emily, Danny, Donny, and Sarah Anderson of Bergland, who earned $25 for their 185-pounder, and Landon Westover, who took home $10 for his 102-pound pumpkin.
A number of families were involved in this year’s competition, including Alberton resident John Milling and his wife, Allison. The couple had a little domestic rivalry going as they each entered a pumpkin.
“I never thought this would be so much fun,” John Milling said after capturing the prize for best rookie and most attractive pumpkin with his 366-pound entry.
Allison Milling’s pumpkin weighed in at 213 pounds, and the couple’s son, Daniel, brought home a prize for guessing the weight of a giant pumpkin at 271 pounds.
The Banzai Award for the smallest pumpkin went to Gabby O’Connell of Rainy River while young Alexandre Affleck won the ugliest pumpkin award.
Other awards were handed out for the most decorated pumpkins, best pumpkin pies, oddest vegetable, tallest sunflower, biggest onion, and the furthest seed in the seed-spitting competition.