Winning pumpkin sets Canadian record

The 1,884 pounder was recently entered in the Great White North Pumpkin Weigh-off and Fair in Smoky Lake, Alta.

SMOKY LAKE, Alta. — Setting the bar ever higher is nothing new to Lloydminster pumpkin grower Don Crews.

At the 30th annual Great White North Pumpkin Weigh-off and Fair in Smoky Lake, Oct. 6, Crews set a new Canadian record and a new site record — again.

His pumpkin officially weighed in at 1,884 pounds (854.57 kilograms), beating his site record pumpkin of 2017 by 232 lb. That pumpkin weighed in at 1,652 lb.

The previous Canadian record was 1,877 lb.

With his win this year also goes the plaque and $1,400 in first place prize money, not to mention the prestige of having the biggest pumpkin shown at Smoky Lake.

In the past dozen years, Crews has been the name most often on the winner’s list. In 2006, his champion pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,029 lb. In 2007, it was 1,137.5 lb., a new site record for that year. He was the winner again in 2008, but the weight was down considerably, a mere 953.6 lb. In 2009, his first place pumpkin weighed 987.2 lb, and in 2011, his first place win was with a pumpkin weighing 1,081 lb.

He took a fifth first place win two years later, in 2013, with a 1,213.8 lb. pumpkin, not quite the site record set in 2012 by Ray Beaudin of Coalhurst, Alta., with a 1,275.5 lb. pumpkin.

Crews was back in the driver’s seat again in 2014, this time with a 1,210.5 lb. specimen, just slightly under the weight that earned him the win the previous year.

Ray Beaudin broke Crews’ streak in 2015 to set a new site record with a 1,470.5 lb. pumpkin.

Crews was back on top again in 2016, this time with a 1,365 lb. pumpkin.

And as mentioned, he set a new site record in 2017 and broke his own site record again this year, his ninth win at Smoky Lake with his 1,884 lb. monster.

The second largest pumpkin was an entry from Brian Meyer of Goodsoil, Sask. His pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,199.5 lb.

The Zaychkowskys from Airdrie, Alta., came in with the third and fourth place wins: Jennifer with a 1,157 lb. pumpkin and Eddy with a 971.5 lb. pumpkin. Eddy Zaychkowski also brought one along that was much bigger, even though he knew it would be disqualified due to a crack in the skin.

But he brought it for display purposes and it unofficially weighed in at 2,255 lb.

The largest pumpkin recorded this year was grown by Steve Geddes of Boscawan, New Hampshire, with a 2,528 lb. specimen. The world record was set in 2016 with a 2,624.6 lb. pumpkin grown by Mathias Willemijns of Belgium at a show in Ludwigsburg, Germany.

This year at Smoky Lake, 17 pumpkins were shown, ranging from 50.5 lb. up to the winning entry by Crews.

During the past 24 years, the weight of the champion pumpkin has tripled. In 1994, Rod Goertzen of Saskatoon showed the champion at 669.5 lb.

The show this year also included 10 field pumpkins, nine squash, six watermelons and a pair of long gourds.

The pumpkin festival at Smoky Lake features many other events, including rides for kids, threshing demonstrations, a car show, entertainment and market gardens.

The pumpkin drop at the end of the day draws the largest crowd.

Pumpkin fair president Peggy Danyluk estimated the crowd in the arena alone was the largest they have ever had for the event.

“We were very thankful we finally had some good weather … the arena was a lot fuller than it usually is. I know by the door numbers that we had a lot more people in,” she said. “I think it’s just fantastic for our town.”

Danyluk said the pumpkin weigh-off started out as a friendly competition between brothers and friends and has turned into an event that attracts large numbers.

The town’s population of about 1,000 swells to an estimated six or seven times that number during the festival, she said.

Judging by wristband sales alone for the recreation complex where the hub of activity is, about 3,000 people turned out.

Next year, festival organizers plan to move the date for the festival earlier to the second Saturday of September.

One reason is to help growers avoid some of the cooler weather that can be very hard on the pumpkins.

They don’t grow much more at that point anyway, said Danyluk.

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