October 6, 2008
The bigger, the better
Growers bring their largest gourds to pumpkinfest
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Adam Ver Schneider, 6, of Freeville watches as a competitor’s pumpkin is weighed Saturday at the Pumpkinfest’s largest pumpkin weigh-off. The biggest pumpkin weighed in at 727 pounds this year.
Between barbecue stands, crafts, live bands, microbrew tents and swarms of people, it’s easy to get lost in the variety of the Great Cortland Pumpkinfest. But for pumpkin growers, Pumpkinfest will always be about the pumpkins.
It may not have been pretty, but Scott Case’s pumpkin was the big winner in the Largest Pumpkin Weigh-Off Contest.
The pumpkin was pale and wrinkly, but at 727 pounds, it won Case “largest pumpkin.” It also won him “most unique” pumpkin.
“Actually the uglier look like that ends up weighing more ,” said Case, a mechanical engineer from Whitney Point. “When they look real rough on the outside, that means the walls are thicker.”
This was the fifth annual weigh-off in the 13th annual Great Cortland Pumpkinfest. The winners will all have their names engraved on the Bernie Potter Memorial Trophy, named for Truxton resident and pumpkin grower Bernie Potter, who helped to plan the first weigh-off at Pumpkinfest and died May 25.
Case said that although he has heard some growers complain about this pumpkin season, he thought it was a good one.
“This is the best year I’ve ever had. I thought we did OK. We had a lot of sun, some nice weather early on.”
A first-time contestant, Case plans to return next year.
Other contestants did not think it was a good year for growing large pumpkins.
Matt Ver Schneider, a lab manager at Pall Trinity who was in charge of the contest, said the season was too cool and wet for growing really large pumpkins.
Ver Schneider technically had the heaviest pumpkin at 750 pounds. But because it had a soft spot in the side and some cracks, Ver Schneider disqualified his pumpkin. He was following rules sanctioned by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a worldwide organization that has a presence in Germany and Australia. The rules state that there can be no holes that go through to the cavity and rotting has to be minimal.
Ver Schneider said last year he set the record for the Pumpkinfest weigh-off with a 1,095-pound pumpkin. Last year at the Cooperstown Pumpkinfest, there were more than 10 pumpkins weighing more than 1,000 pounds, and this year there were only three, Ver Schneider said.
Victor Tiffany, a computer technician from Ithaca, came in second place for the largest pumpkin in the 19-and-older category with a 595-pound pumpkin.
Tiffany agreed with Ver Schneider about the quality of the season.
“I’d say last year was a better growing season for pumpkins,” Tiffany said, adding that frost last week stunted his pumpkin’s growth.
“That thing came to a screaming halt after that,” Tiffany said.
Ver Schneider said the keys to growing huge pumpkins are “soil, water, good seed, a lot of hard work and some luck.”
Adam Ver Schneider, son of Matt, from Freeville, won the age 4-to-11 category, with a 588-pound pumpkin, and Andrew Short of Whitney Point won in the 12-to-18-year-old contest with a 440-pound pumpkin.
Jackie Carroll of Groton won “best color” and Adam Van Schneider won “best shape.”
In another part of the Court Street Park, a tent featured pumpkins painted to resemble Frankenstein, Fred Flintstone, Wilmer and Charlotte from Charlotte’s Web, Mario from the Nintendo game Mario Brothers, and Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.
Peter Davis, a fourth-grade student at Homer Intermediate School, won first place in the third- and fourth-grade contest with the character Runt from the children’s book and movie Chicken Little, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap.
“Me and my dad were looking at some pictures, and we thought Runt would be really cool to do because he’s really funny in the movie,” Davis said.
Shauna Brug, a Cortland resident, missed Pumpkinfest last year to attend the LaFayette Apple Festival.
“This is much more fun I think than the Apple Fest,” Brug said. “This is more family oriented. It’s laid back. You don’t have to rush, you can just meander around.”
Don Burke, an artist from North Syracuse, sold hand-blown glass pendants in a stand at Pumpkinfest for the first year.
“I think it was a super show. A lot of good people, people spending money. That’s always a good thing,” Burke said.
“It was one of our better turnouts, but I don’t think it was our largest crowd ever,” said Jim Dempsey of the Cortland County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We had two days of good weather, which is always a plus.”
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