Flawed giant becomes major attraction at pumpkin fair

Smoky Lake, Alta. — Eddy Zaychkowsky is on a mission to show everybody that Alberta can grow big pumpkins.

That’s what he said before the official pumpkin weigh-off began at the 30th annual Smoky Lake Pumpkin Weigh-off and Fair held Oct. 6.

Zaychkowsky is a regular at the annual event and always a strong competitor to claim the top spot for the biggest pumpkin.

This year, the Airdrie, Alta., resident had one growing that he thought stood a good chance of winning — one that might even set a new site record at Smoky Lake. But it developed a pinhole and he knew it would be disqualified.

Zaychkowsky decided to bring it anyway, just to show people how large pumpkins can be grown in this part of the world.

The unofficial pumpkin was weighed early in the morning, before the crowds gathered for the official weigh-off. It tipped the scales at 2,255 pounds (1,023 kilograms). It proved large enough to earn a place on display on the arena floor. People had photos taken with it, kids climbed on it, and it became a major attraction.

Just before the main show, emcee and radio announcer A.J. Keller had Zaychkowsky tell the crowd about his giant.

“We were on a roll with this pumpkin and it was developing some pretty heavy crease lines,” he said. “I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to make it to the end. We could have pulled it and stopped short of 2,000 (lb.), and brought it as a whole pumpkin, but we wanted to push it to the end.

“It didn’t make it,” he said. “There was a pinhole.”

“It’s 93 days old, “ he told the crowd, which let out a huge gasp.

“At day 20, it weighed 350 lb. And from day 20 to day 40, it gained an average 30 lb. a day. At day 40, it was running 1,400 lb. We were on course to break the world’s record, which is 2,624 (lb.),” he said.

Zaychkowsky told the crowd how smoke from forest fires in British Columbia shielded the sun for three weeks in August. Where the pumpkin had been gaining 30 lb. a day, it dropped to six. That considerably slowed growth.

When sunshine returned, growth began again, but ultimately, the pumpkin couldn’t keep up; its skin cracked and developed a pinhole. Had Zaychkowsky entered it in the competition, it would have been disqualified.

“But,” he said, “this here puts Smoky Lake on the map. The Canadian record is 1,877 lb.”

A pumpkin grown by Don Crews beat that record by seven lb. when the official weigh-off was held later that day.

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