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Ohio town hosts 100th annual pumpkin festival
By DOUG GRAVES
Ohio Correspondent

CIRCLEVILLE, Ohio — Dozens of pickup trucks holding their prized, monstrous pumpkins lined Main Street as growers of these gigantic beauties waited their turn on the scale.

Several pumpkins tipped the scale at more than a half ton, but the top prize for the largest pumpkin at the 100th Circleville Pumpkin Show belonged to Karen Wigit and Buddy Conley of South Bloomingville, Ohio. Their sixth months of labor fetched a top prize of $2,000.

“There are no secrets. You just need a lot of water and a lot of insecticide,” Conley said. “In June and July, when the plant is aggressive, it will grow a foot a day. You need to spray the plant three times a week. With a lot of water anyone can have a big pumpkin.”

The couple plants their seeds indoors in early May. By May 15 he transplants them in the outdoor soil.

“You also need a good soil,” Wigit added.

The couple has won Circleville Pumpkin Show’s top prize in 1997, 1999 and 2001. Wigit also finished second in this year’s weigh-in and earned another $750.

“We’ve competed for eight years and won four times,” Conley said.

Most growers are hush-hush about their planting strategies. Not this pair.

“It fun and very addictive,” Conley said. “The first week we do all our pollinating by hand so we can keep track of our genetics. By the first week of August when it’s prime growing season you can almost see them grow. They average about 30 pounds a day. With a lot of water you can get up to 60 pounds in a day.

“There’s a danger of them splitting when they’re growing as they could grow too fast. Once the pumpkins get any kind of hole in them they’re disqualified from the competition.”

Newel Cabra of Lancaster, Ohio grew one that weighed a little more than 400 pounds. Not bad in his first attempt.

“That’s what it weighed at the Fairfield County Fairgrounds,” Cabra said. “It always weighs less by the time you reach the judge’s stand because the water content decreases once the vine has been cut,” Cabra said.

“This is my first time growing a pumpkin. Heck, I’m just a city kid. I got a seed, planted it and just watered it. It takes a lot of water and a lot of attention. I learned you have to do something with the plant every day.”

Dr. Robert Liggett, a five-time winner of this annual competition, didn’t fare too well this season.

“I had a good one this year but got a bit too aggressive with the water and fertilizer and it split on me,” he said. “It weighed nearly 1,280 pounds. And the other pumpkins I had got a fungus.”

All competitors admit that transportation of the gigantic pumpkins takes a lot of care.

Wigit and Conley hauled their prize to the show by traveling side roads. To guarantee a soft ride they reduced the air pressure in their truck tires and drove very slowly to their destination.

And with the money perhaps there’s a trip to Cancun in the works?

“Naw,” Wigit said, “that money will be used to pay the fertilizer bill.”

The Circleville Pumpkin Show got its start in 1903 when the mayor, George Haswell, conceived the idea of inviting the farms in the area to display their harvest in the streets of Circleville. The show has only been halted three years, that occurring during the two World Wars.

This Ohio farm news was published in the Oct. 25, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.

10/24/2006