Ron and Doris Wray won the giant pumpkin contest at this year’s Norfolk County Fair and set a personal best.
The couple’s entry, nicknamed “Frank” by their daughter, weighed in at a 1,762 pounds to capture the top prize of $2,000 and bragging rights for a year.
“The biggest one I’ve ever had before was 1,301 pounds a few years ago,” Ron said after the couple received congratulations from fair general manager George Araujo and volunteers on Sunday afternoon. “This is bigger than anything I’ve ever grown.
“This is the first time I’ve grown something so big that it wouldn’t fit in the back of my pick-up.”
The pumpkin is about five-feet-six inches by five-feet-eight inches and had to be put in the back of a bigger vehicle to be moved off the field to the fairgrounds.
“I think it’s a Norfolk County Fair record,” Ron said. “I think the biggest one they had before was 1,600 and something pounds.
The pumpkin finished third in a competition in Port Elgin on Saturday before competing at the Norfolk County Fair on Sunday. It won’t be entered in any other competitions but it will be on display at the Royal Botanical Gardens for the rest of the month, Ron said.
Asked if the keys to growing a prize-winning pumpkin are a state secret, Ron said not completely.
“We learned a lot by trial and error but there are clubs out there like the Giant Vegetable Growers of Ontario,” Wray said. “For a membership you can get seeds, advice and they’ve got a website.
“Most growers are very open. They might not tell you everything but they’ll give you enough help to get started and grow a big pumpkin.”
It does take time and to get a good giant pumpkin a grower has to start at the end of April. It’s important to get a good plant going and by June you need to have a flower with a tiny pumpkin – one that is about the size of a toonie.
After that, you can practically watch it grow, Doris said.
“It may be one size in the morning and by the end of the day it’s a whole lot bigger,” Doris said.
Giant pumpkins can add between 30 and 40 pounds a day.
The Wrays also has to protect their prize-winner from mice.
The couple had put a blanket around their pumpkin to protect it and keep it warm. However, some mice got underneath the blanket and had started nibbling on it.
“I guess they thought they had a buffet,” Ron said.
But the couple used a combination of essence of peppermint and water spray unscathed.
Still, the Wrays acknowledged they have a ways to go to compete for world giant pumpkin supremacy.
The 2021 world record was won by a farmer in Tuscany, Italy who grew a pumpkin weighing 2,703 pounds. But at 1,703 pounds the Wrays are closing in on the Canadian record of 1,959 pounds.
The Wrays beat out Joel Jarvis, of St. Thomas, who has won the competition several times in the past but Jarvis still had a successful 2021 Norfolk County Fair.
Jarvis won the largest squash competition with an entry that weighed 1,277 pounds.