WINDTHORST - With this year being another COVID year, the Windthorst and District Lions Club had made the decision back in April to go ahead with their ninth annual Great Pumpkin Weigh-In Festival.
It was simply decided that “It’s better to try something rather than nothing at all.”
Members of the Lions Club were afraid if they left it for one year, they might not do it again.
The festival was held on Sept. 24 in the Windthorst Rec Centre with a crowd of 75 gathering for the weighing-in of the pumpkins. The 10 gardeners taking part had their pumpkins of all shapes and hues of orange on display at the front of the hall, with guests having a chance to purchase 50/50 tickets and guess the weight of the combined 10 pumpkins.
Ten gardeners were auctioned off this spring and once they received their Howard Dills Atlantic Giants pumpkin seeds, they were on their way to make plans to grow the best pumpkin. By the looks of this year's pumpkins on display, the spring and summer weather of 2021 provided ideal growing conditions for some of the gardeners while others struggled with an early frost.
Bernard Steele, Windthorst Lions member and one of the organizers of the Pumpkin Fest, had the idea from the neighboring community of Fairlight so he came back to the Lions Club explaining his idea for a fundraiser. The Lions all agreed ‘Let’s give a try,’ and nine years later it’s still a big hit, raising money to donate to a different organization every year.
Steele quite capably emceed the evening, welcoming everyone to the event. The festivities continued when one by one, the pumpkins were set on the scale for the official weigh in.
The heaviest of the evening was the pumpkin belonging to first time growers Zach and Andrea Johnson, weighing in at a whopping 998.5 pounds.
The rest of the results of the official weighing of all the pumpkins were as follows: Karinda Young, 19.4 pounds, Peter Dayman 132.6 pounds, Allan Katona 209.8 pounds, Jessica Sproat 217.4 pounds, Brandon Biesenthal 258.4 pounds, Wanda Reid 268.4 pounds, Bernard Steele 354.4 pounds, Dwight Larsen 509.8 pounds, and Jim Moulding/Neil Neuls, 886.2 pounds.
Now for those of you who are adding up the numbers the total weight of all 10 combined came in at 3,854.8 pounds.
The 50/50 draw of $192.50 was won by Tim Johnson of Broadview, guessing within .2 pounds of the actual weight. Johnson graciously donated his winnings back to the first responders.
Gardeners Andrea Johnson and her son Zach were purchased by her mother LeeAnn Moulding with a bid of $600 earlier this spring and she received a payout of $4,800 at the weigh-in.
The Johnsons were presented with the trophy where their names will be engraved, giving them the bragging rights for the next year.
There was an added incentive for the gardeners again this year: first place Andrea and Zach took home $300 for having grown the heaviest pumpkin. Second place Jim Moulding and Neil Neuls $200 and third place Dwight Larsen $100.
So what is it about growing a pumpkin that appeals to people so much?
“It’s the challenge and gardeners as a rule seem to be quite competitive,” says Steele.
The Johnson mother/son team was asked what their secret was to growing such a huge pumpkin, this being the heaviest ever recorded at the Windthorst Weigh-In Festivals.
“I have no secrets,” said Andrea. “This was our first year growing and my son Zach was very interested in it so we thought we’d enter the competition.”
“My son Zach was so interested in doing this and he put a lot of work into it,” explains Andrea. “He was pretty excited.”
“We ended up with just shy of a 1,000-pound pumpkin … it was crazy!”
How much water does it take to grow that big of a pumpkin?
“I would probably water every second day,” explains Andrea. “I had a drip system that I had it on for five to six hours.”
Grandpa and Google were both a big help for ideas on how to water and grow a big pumpkin.
Andrea says they are definitely interested in taking part in this festival again next year.
“The Windthorst Lions Club has been fantastic,” says Andrea, who adds: “I would be more than willing to grow one again. If they let us in we’ll grow again.”
The Johnson duo is unsure of what they’ll do with their pumpkin once they load it up and take it home.
“I may have to start selling pumpkin pies,” says Andrea with a chuckle at her idea.
A total of $5,000 from this year’s Pumpkinfest was donated to Kipling & District First Responders.
“Most of the Gardeners are talking like they will grow again,” Steele said, and added, “Although one or more gardeners may opt out as it is very time consuming.”
Steele says he was contacted already by three others who may be interested in taking part next year.
“We’re (Lions Club members) very happy with the way it went and hoping to do a bigger event next year,” says Steele. “We’ll probably hold the event around this time of the year as harvest is usually pretty much wrapped up for most.”
“We have found that keeping a pumpkin alive past the end of September is a struggle for fear of frost, although this September is an exception.”
“I would like to thank all that came out to the Great Pumpkin Weigh In. The community and surrounding communities have been fantastic with coming out to support our local Lions club,” says Steele. “I would like to thank the growers for putting in the time and thanks to all the investors.”