By Danny Dill
Growth of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth seems to be keeping pace with the giant vegetables its competitors are producing.
In 1995, weighoffs were held at 19 Commonwealth sites, from Nova Scotia to California, as growers harvested their giant pumpkins and entered them in local contests in hopes of capturing one of the top prizes in the international competition.
Last year's GPC grand champ was a 963-pound U.S. record, grown by of Lowville, N.Y., which she entered at the Ottawa site. Second place went to Geneva Emmons, Issaquah, Wash., at 939 pounds; and third place was 887 pounds, grown by Lorraine Orr, from Howick, Que.
In 1996, growers will not only be hoping to surpass the world record holder, but their attention will be focused on the elusive 1,000-pound barrier. Herman Bax, of Brockville, Ont., literally clawed at that plateau in 1994, when he grew a world record pumpkin that weighed in at 990 pounds.
Until that record was set, even the most enthusiastic growers in the international pumpkin patch expected it could take until the end of the decade for the Dill's Atlantic Giant (TM) seeds developed by Howard Dill of Windsor, N.S., to produce a 1,000-pounder. The 1993 record was 884 pounds, grown by Don Black, of Winthrop, N.Y., but that was shattered in 1994 by Bax and three other growers.
The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth was organized in 1993 with four sites. The network grew to 14 locations in 1994, and another five sites signed on for the 1995 weighoffs.
The Commonwealth presented $8,000 in prizes, in addition to those awarded at local sites. First place winner took home $3,000; second, $2,000; third, $1,000; and fourth and fifth, $500 each. In addition to the Commonwealth grand prize, the Nut Tree, Calif., site offered the Great Guinness Award of $1,000, if a new world record was set at any participating GPC site. That site also offered to purchase the year's largest pumpkin to be exhibited during weekends in October.
The GPC also awarded $500 for the largest squash entered, and $250 for the second largest; $250 for the heaviest watermelon, and $100 for second.
The hobby of growing giant pumpkins has been around for more than 100 years, but soared to new heights after Dill's years of research and selective pollination yielded the new seed variety that has produced world record giant pumpkins for more than 16 years.
Dill won his first championship in 1979 with a weight of 438.5 pounds, but that record has now more than doubled. Pumpkins grown by competitors are weighed at individual sites to determine local or regional winners. The top weights from each weighoff are then compiled to decide the overall winners.
For more information, please contact a GPC site near you regarding regional or local prizes and awards, newsletters, growing information, rules and regulations.
Best wishes to all pumpkin growers in 1996.
Textfile Courtesy of Al Kingsbury and Danny Dill
Last Updated: Fri Sep 06 10:30:00PM CST 1996