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Cinco de Mayo in Windthorst raises over $14,000

The winners of the Calcutta won't be known until later this year.
Cinco De Mayo in Windthorst 2022
The gardeners pose for a group photo prior to the auction. Back row, from left, Brandon Biesenthal and Peter Sweeten. Middle row, Bernard Steele, Andrea Johnson, Jim Moulding, Jordan McKay – Windthorst Fire Department, Colleen Jones and Wanda Reid. Front row, Zach and Nolan Johnson. Missing from the photo: Ken Weichel – Nutrien Ag Solutions and Chad Pasap.

This past weekend was once again time to have some fiesta fun in Windthorst.

It was time to tip your sombrero and celebrate Cinco de Mayo at the 10th annual Fiesta with the annual Pumpkin Growers’ Calcutta on Saturday evening in the Windthorst Recreation Centre. Attendance was somewhat lower at this year's celebration of all things Mexican, with approximately 80 people.

Bernard Steele, Lions member and MC for the evening, welcomed everyone to the annual event hosted by the Windthorst Lions Club.

“It’s been a couple of years since we’ve hosted a live event,” said Steele. “It’s nice to see everyone out.”

Keeping with the Mexican themed evening, appetizers were served including a variety of taco salads, salsa and delicious dips.

And on to the Pumpkin Growers' Calcutta, where there was once again an array of pumpkin growers.

“We’re always having fun here,” comments Auctioneer Gordon Kish and adds “that’s the name of the game.”

Kish reminds the crowd that there’s no friends at an auction, so it was acceptable to outbid the next table.

“If you have money in your pockets, tonight’s the night to part with it,” says Kish.

The gardeners were called up to the front of the hall, where each was introduced. Returning pumpkins growers included Wanda Reid, Bernard Steele, Brandon Biesenthal and the duo of Jim Moulding and grandson Nolan Johnson. Also returning for a second chance at bragging rights was the mother-son team of Andrea and Zach Johnson, the 2021 winning team with a pumpkin just shy of 1,000 pounds.

There were a few new pumpkin growers accepting the challenge this year including Colleen Jones, Ken Weichel of Nutrien Ag. Solutions, Chad Pasap, Peter Sweeten and firefighters from the Windthorst Fire Department.

Once the rules were explained the bidding began with Kish volunteering his services. It was a phantom bid on the first one, which meant the first successful bidder had the opportunity to take their pick of gardeners. LeAnn Moulding had the highest bid of $2,300 and she chose Zach and Andrea Johnson.

From there on, bids were as follows: Andrea Johnson bid $2,100 on Jim Moulding and Nolan Johnson; Flying by the Seat of our Pants purchased the Windthorst Fire Department for $1,700; and Wolf Creek Farms bought their gardener of the evening, Reid, with a bid of $1,000.

Pasap was purchased by Dalton Biesenthal for $900; Blake, Lyle and Rhett McCarthy bought Steele for $1,300; the BS Gang purchased two gardeners – Nutrien Ag Solutions for $1,100 and Sweeten for $800; Jones purchased Biesenthal for $1,200; and Jones, who is a gardener, brought in a bid of $1700 from Norm Jones.

Many of the gardeners have their secrets to growing the best pumpkin out there but very few were revealed. Veteran gardeners did give the newbies some tips such as how to manage such a huge pumpkin.

“That’s a problem I hope to have,” says Colleen Jones in hopes of growing a huge pumpkin. “I’m not fertilizing, I’ll see what Mother Nature brings. I’m excited. I don’t want to let Norm Jones down.”

The Windthorst Fire Department reportedly already has manure in place ready for the growing season.

Steele has taken part as a pumpkin grower many times and says, “As a grower I will admit I’m doubling down on natural fertilizer. I’ve got it lined up but not revealing where it’s from.”

Ken Weichel of Nutrien Ag Solutions may have a leg up on the competition as to where he could get fertilizer.

Taking part for a second year is Biesenthal, who says, “I learned a lot last year. I’m coming back with a vengeance.”

Another grower, Reid says gardening is a stress reliever. Reid, who has been growing pumpkins for years, said: “I hope Mother Nature treats everyone better … everything relies on Mother Nature. It’s all for fun though. It’s great for the community bringing all together for fun and laughter.”

A total of $14,100 was raised on the Calcutta with half of that paid out in prize money. A total of $7,050 will be paid out to the group who purchased the winning gardener and for an incentive to the gardeners, $300 goes to the gardener who takes first place, $200 to second and $100 to third. Money raised from this event will go towards the outdoor recreation court in Windthorst.

“It’s been amazing,” said Steele on this year’s auction. “This may be the second highest amount brought in over the 10 years.”

“Thanks goes out to JMK Greenhouse for starting the pumpkin seeds,” said Steele. “She’ll get them to a three-leaf stage.”

Watch for the Pumpkin Festival in the fall where there will be a weigh in on the pumpkins and one gardener will be named the winner.


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