As organizers finalize preparations for this weekend’s hybrid Port Elgin Pumpkinfest – which will include both live and virtual components – rumours are swirling that this could finally be the year that an elusive 2,000-pound pumpkin enters the weigh-off competition.
“I am always optimistic,” marketing co-ordinator Ann-Marie Collins said Wednesday.
“There is one local grower who is hopeful that they’ve got a really good pumpkin growing and we are always hopeful with our growers to the east. We’ve got a grower that comes to our event out of Quebec that always brings a good-sized pumpkin and squash.”
Cameron, Ont., growers Phil and Jane Hunt still hold the Canadian heaviest pumpkin record with the 1,959-lb gourd they entered at the Woodbridge Fair in 2018. The Hunts set a site record for Pumpkinfest during last year’s virtual-only event with a 1,939.5-lb pumpkin.
So far, a 2,000-lb pumpkin hasn’t been weighed at an official Canadian competition, but a Cape Breton, N.S., grower has told media outlets he’s planning to enter a pumpkin he estimates at 2,200 lbs at a Nova Scotia weigh-off this weekend.
Tiverton-area grower Bob MacKenzie, whose 1,812-lb entry was the heaviest pumpkin from Grey-Bruce and placed third overall at the 2020 Pumpkinfest, said he’s also heard rumblings that a 2,000-lb pumpkin could arrive at this weekend’s event.
“Nobody’s really come out and said there’s going to be one here, but just little snippets of rumours that there could be,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised that somebody would come in with one. I’m hoping there is.”
MacKenzie and his wife Elaine, members of the Giant Vegetable Growers of Ontario, have a pumpkin in their patch that they estimate to be about 1,700 lbs and plan to enter at this year’s 35th annual Pumpkinfest.
But the mammoth gourd could be even heavier as was the case with their pumpkin last year, which they had thought would tip the scales at 1,600 lbs based on a chart that estimates a pumpkin’s weight using four measurements.
MacKenzie said it’s been a good year for growing giant pumpkins. July was cool and wet, while August was hot and dry. Storms in September brought hail to the region, he said, but that didn’t seem to impact the couple’s patch.
This year’s Bruce Power International Weigh-Off is set for Saturday only in the Port Elgin Missionary Church, on Green Street in the Port Elgin Pumpkinfest Village.
Because of pandemic-related physical distancing and capacity requirements, only festival volunteers and growers will be permitted inside the building.
However, the weigh-off will be live broadcast on a giant screen in the village’s outdoor food court/vendor area and online at Pumpkinfest.org.
The broadcast, which is expected to begin at 10 a.m. and end when the weigh-off concludes around 3 or 4 p.m., will be interspersed with recorded entertainment, such as a VIP seed-spitting competition, pumpkin carving and local decoration contests, online car show submissions, Harvest Star Search talent show entries and musical performances.
A Fall Colour Tour of antique, classic and other vehicles will also be live-streamed on the giant screen and Pumpkinfest website Sunday, starting around 11 a.m.
A midway with rides and games will be back at Pumpkinfest this year, taking place on both Saturday and Sunday. There will also be some vendors selling crafts, food and other items.
Cinderella’s Car Show will also return, with up to 175 vehicles lining four blocks of Port Elgin’s downtown core Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The Pumpkinfest Village will be open Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Masks are required unless sitting down to eat, visitors will be encouraged to remain physically distanced from people outside of their households and capacity will be monitored. Admission is by donation.
Collins said organizers thought it was important after nearly two years of pandemic restrictions to offer an inclusive community event in which cost would not be a barrier to participation for anyone.
More information on this year’s event, including details on a shuttle service Saturday and maps, is available at Pumpkinfest.org.