Giant pumpkins 'a whole lot smaller' at P.E.I. weigh-off

To the untrained eye, a pumpkin weighing 545 kilograms might appear to be gigantic.

To Islander Alan Aten, who won the P.E.I. Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off on Saturday, it's more than 136 kg lighter than the one he entered last year. 

"For the year we had, it did pretty good," he said. "I had a 1,570-pound one last year."

Last year's champion, grown by Eddy Shaw, weighed in at 802 kilograms, a record for the competition.

Like many farmers across the Island, Aten faced challenges because of bad weather.

"We had a bad summer," he said. "They call it the three Ds: the drench in June and July, and, in August, the drought — and in September we had Dorian."

"They're a whole lot smaller this year."

Travis Kingdon/CBC

Thanksgiving weekend is often marked by turkey and stuffing, but for some Islanders the holiday weekend's highlight is the weigh-off. 

This year, the competition had 13 growers across P.E.I. square off on Saturday afternoon.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

In previous years, the competition has seen about 30 growers gather, said Laurie Smith of Veseys Seeds. 

"Registration was a little bit lower this year — different growing season altogether," Smith said.

'Less than ideal'

Second-place finisher Gordon Ellis, who grows his pumpkins in his backyard in Charlottetown, said his giant pumpkin weighed in at 429 kilograms — his heaviest yet. 

"They're a lot of work throughout the year ... it's an hour or two a day out with them," Ellis said. 

Despite a poor growing season, he's pleased with the size of his pumpkin.

Travis Kingdon/CBC

"Last year was ideal," Ellis said. "This year was just less than ideal. At least we're not making a living doing it." 

Islander Gordon Aten came in third at 269 kg.

'We'll have to wait and see'

Alan Aten said he planted his pumpkin seeds in May in anticipation of the competition. He said he's hoping for a better growing season next year.

"We'll have to wait and see, nobody knows that," he said. 

For aspiring pumpkin enthusiasts, he said there are a few key ingredients to the art of growing giant pumpkins. "Good seeds to start with, good rich ground — and a lot of luck." 

With poor weather, and a less gigantic pumpkin than he had hoped for in 2019, Alen Aten said he may try again next year. But he hasn't made up his mind.

"I keep saying I'm going to quit, but I keep coming around once spring rolls around it seems. It gets you going again, I guess." 

More P.E.I. news