WINDSOR, N.S. — The 34th annual Windsor West Hants Pumpkin Weigh-off proved one thing this year: you don’t have to be a farmer to grow a giant gourd.
Bill Smeltzer, of New Minas, grew just one pumpkin this year — and much to his surprise, it turned out to be a scale-tipper.
“I used to grow two but I wasn’t going to grow this year — I was going to take a year off because I haven’t grown one over 1,000 pounds in five years,” said Smeltzer, who lives in a subdivision.
Smeltzer has been growing giant pumpkins for about 10 years and says it’s an addictive hobby.
“A neighbour of mine grows them too and he got me a transplant and said, ‘you’ve got to put one in.’ So I agreed to throw one in and look what happened,” said Smeltzer, smiling as he looked over at his giant pumpkin.
His pumpkin, weighing in at 1,226 pounds (556 kilograms), took home the top prize at the weigh-off, which was held at the Dill Family Farm.
“I was just hoping for a Top 3 (finish); that was always my goal was to be in the Top 3. I wanted one of my pumpkins left up there... Fifth place is the highest I’ve ever placed,” said Smeltzer.
“To win, that blows me away. I never expected to win.”
His pumpkin was the last to be weighed. As it approached the scale, Smeltzer said he was nervous.
“My heart was racing. I thought Jeremy’s looked bigger.”
Turns out, Smeltzer’s pumpkin was just eight pounds heavier than Jeremy Zwicker’s entry.
Zwicker, who hails from the Mahone Bay area, has been growing giant pumpkins and squash for about four years now. It was his first time entering the Windsor competition. His squash won first place with a weight of 989 pounds (449 kg) and his pumpkin weighed in at 1,218 pounds (552 kg).
He said his grandfather grew giant vegetables and he’s now following on with the tradition.
“It’s in our bloodline I guess,” he said, after learning his squash was the heaviest of the six that were in the competition.
Jeff Reid, of Waterville, brought the third heaviest pumpkin to Windsor. He has been a top competitor for a number of years, and has won the weigh-off in the past.
“I didn’t really think I had much of a chance this year. I had a rough season. I had some diseases in my patch,” said Reid.
“I really did not think I was going to do that well. I was pretty surprised it went quite heavy for me,” said Reid, who is the founder of the Annapolis Valley Giant Vegetable Growers group.
Reid’s pumpkin weighed in at 1,197 pounds (543 kg).
Tom Dudka’s giant orange pumpkin did what none of his previous pumpkins could accomplish — it finally broke the 1,000-pound mark.
Dudka, of New Glasgow, grew four giant pumpkins this year — naming each one after a politician. There was Trudeau, Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Trump.
“I went out one day and Trump was losing bad and I said listen... you start gaining some weight. A day and a half (later), (he gained) 75 pounds and he never stopped,” said Dudka.
“In the paper, all you hear about is Trudeau, Trump, Putin and I said ‘it’s politics, let’s go into the garden with it and see who rules there.’ So, Trump’s the ruler,” Dudka said with a laugh.
The retired New Glasgow resident, who said he grows giant pumpkins as a hobby, said everyone back home was waiting to see how the Trump pumpkin — or Trumpkin as some were calling it — fared.
“I’ve never broken the 1,000-pound mark and I’ve been in it for 14 years. Every year it’s in the 900s,” said Dudka.
The Trump pumpkin placed fifth overall with a weight of 1,051 pounds (477 kg).
Dudka said anyone can learn to grow giant pumpkins, and said it’s quite a fun hobby.
“Once you get into it, you’re hooked for life,” said Dudka.
VanEssa Roberts, member of the Windsor West Hants Pumpkin Festival Society, said the event couldn’t be possible without community support, sponsorship and the involvement of the Dill family, who carry on Howard Dill’s famous Atlantic Giant pumpkin lineage.
While every year is entertaining, she says next year’s festival will be one that spectators definitely won’t want to miss.
“It’ll be our 35th annual and we will have a few surprises here next year,” she said.
Did you know?
The following are some of the other top finishers at the weigh off.
- Jeremy Zwicker, from Mahone Bay, NS — 989 lbs (449 kg)
- Gerard Ansems, from Steam Mill, NS — 877 lbs (398 kg)
- Frank Ansems, from North Alton, NS — 677 lbs (307 kg)
- Danny Dill, from Windsor, NS — 652 lbs (296 kg)
Heaviest field pumpkin
- Al Aten, from Springvale, PEI — 151 lbs (68.5 kg)
- Russell Coolen, from Boutiliers Point, NS — 97 lbs (44 kg)
- Del Lowe, from Halifax, NS — 95 lbs (43 kg)
- Frank Ansems, from North Alton, NS — 89 lbs (40 kg)
- Fred Ansems, from Steam Mill, NS — 1.55 kg
- Frank Ansems, from North Alton, NS — 966 g
- Marilyn Ansems, from North Alton, NS — 906 g
- Nancy Miller, from Brooklyn, NS — 856 g
- Santos Treminio, of Brooklyn, NS — 111 lbs (50 kg)
- Diana MacDonald, of Windsor, NS — 95 lbs (43 kg)
- John Trinacty, of Windsor, NS — 90 lbs (41 kg)
- Alisha Trinacty of Vancouver, BC — 81 lbs (37 kg)
Heaviest bushel gourd
- Gerard Ansems, from Steam Mill, NS — 335 lbs (152 kg)
- Catharina Ansems, from Steam Mill, NS — 289 lbs (131 kg)
- Frank Ansems, from North Alton, NS — 133 lbs (60 kg)
- Diana MacDonald, of Windsor, NS — 34 lbs (15 kg)