Growers of giant pumpkins and squash in Norfolk County will have a local opportunity after all to see how their handiwork this summer stacks up against their neighbours.
The Norfolk County Fair was cancelled in June due to the global pandemic alert. However, fair officials decided last week to have a special weigh-off in early October, just for the fun of it.
“Our garden products committee had reviewed the possibility and had just agreed to proceed,” said George Araujo, general manager of the Norfolk County Fair. “We were reaching out to those that entered last year and this has been completed.”
Araujo emphasized that the weigh-off is for giant pumpkins and giant squash only.
“We are not running the remaining vegetable classes as that would require more handling capacity than we are able to do under current COVID-19 rules,” he said.
In a normal year, producers of giant pumpkins and squash have a variety of competitions to choose from in Ontario and adjoining states south of the border. Many offer large prizes for the biggest specimens. Like the Norfolk County Fair, most of these events have been cancelled due to public health concerns.
The top prize for biggest pumpkin at the Norfolk County Fair is $2,000. However – due to the extenuating circumstances of 2020 – no prize money will be offered at October’s event. There will also be no exhibition fee.
Entry forms are available at the NCF website. They must be faxed or emailed to the fair board office no later than 5 p.m. on Sept. 26.
The weigh-off itself occurs Sunday, Oct. 4. COVID-19 protocols regarding masks and social distancing will apply.
Entrants will be assigned a time to appear at the Lloyd S. Culver Grandstand. Participants must remain in their vehicle or wear a mask outside of it. Only one person per entry “may exit the vehicle during unloading, weighing and returning the specimen back on the vehicle.”
“The specimens must be sound, healthy, and completely undamaged, no foreign material may be included in the weighing,” the rules say.
“Entries must be free of rot, holes, cracks through (to the) cavity, chemical residue, and serious soft spots. Stalks or stems may be left on specimen and trimmed to not more than one inch from fruit. The judges may request a specimen be X-rayed before the weight is announced.”
As well, all exhibitors are limited to one entry per class and no more than two entries per family.
The plant that produces giant pumpkins is capable of producing orange specimens and examples that are predominantly green. Orange examples are deemed pumpkins while green ones are defined as squash. The ROCHE egg colour fan, a gauge printed in Switzerland in 1969, is the standard used to determine whether an exhibit qualifies as a pumpkin or a squash.
“In no case can an entry be considered a pumpkin if less than 80 percent yellow-to-orange in colour,” the fair’s rules and regulations say.
In Ontario, weigh-offs this fall are still on in Port Elgin, Woodbridge and Prince Edward County. These events offer cash prizes. There is a standing offer in Ontario of $5,000 for any grower who produces a pumpkin weighing 2,000 pounds or more.