Despite the pandemic, the Port Elgin Pumpkinfest persevered once again this year. On October 3, the annual event—started in 1986—executed its first virtual festival. Typically, the two-day festival receives crowds of up to 40,000 people and generates an economic impact of close to $5 million in the region, Saugeen Shores mayor Luke Charbonneau wrote in a statement. But this year, there were no crowds.
Instead, the Pumpkinfest board of directors made the decision to go virtual—live streaming the events while abiding by municipal and provincial bylaws. This meant only participants and volunteers were allowed on site.
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While the festival includes a number of attractions, it is known for its classic car show and giant vegetable weigh-off. Even without spectators, this year’s crop of giant vegetables did not disappoint. In total 41 growers took part, presenting their largest vegetables for a chance to win over $12,500 in prizes. Pumpkins as big as boulders, squash the size of large dogs, and watermelon that would make the strongest knees buckle were hoisted from pickup beds via forklift and miniature crane and loaded onto scales.
The marquee event, the Heaviest Pumpkin (which garners a $3,000 prize), was won by Phil Hunt, Jane Hunt, and Chris Lyons. Their pumpkin set a site record, weighing in at a whopping 1,939.5 pounds. The world record for the heaviest pumpkin is 2,624.6 pounds, grown by Belgium’s Mathias Willemijns. If you’re interested in learning how to grow giant vegetables, you could join the Giant Vegetable Growers of Ontario.
Other impressive results included Todd Kline’s squash, taking first prize in its category at 1,288 pounds. Joseph Giffen set a site record with his 249.5-pound bushel gourd. Mark Pollock won the watermelon category, with his watermelon of 124.5 pounds. And Bob and Elaine MacKenzie submitted the largest cabbage at 46.5 pounds. Need some guidance for how to grow your own? The Gardening Channel has some great tips.
If you missed the 2020 Pumpkinfest action, you can watch the entire festival here.