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Stockholm man wins pumpkin competition at Gouverneur Fairgrounds


GOUVERNEUR — The last shall be first.

That’s the way it was Sunday during the Pumpkin Festival at the Gouverneur Fairgrounds when judges weighed the last of the massive pumpkins and declared a 942-pound gourd belonging to Donald R. Black, Stockholm, the winner.

The next closest competitor was Lyle Hotis, Gouverneur, whose pumpkin weighed 746 pounds.

On the flip side, a pumpkin entered by Don Peck, Gouverneur, was so small that it fit in the bed of a Tonka Truck. It tipped the scales at 8 ounces after judges had to resort to a smaller scale to get an accurate reading.

Mr. Hotis, vice president of the Gouverneur Fair Board, said the first-ever weekend dedicated to pumpkins was all in fun and a way to raise some money. Adult entrants in the pumpkin competition paid a $5 entry fee, while there was no charge for the youth.

“Last year I grew a 700-or-so-pound pumpkin and challenged some of my fellow board members. There’s six of us. They’re pretty competitive,” he said. “We’re calling it a regional pumpkin weigh-off.”

Holding a Pumpkin Festival at the fairgrounds and inviting other pumpkin aficionados to participate seemed like the perfect idea, Mr. Hotis said.

“The fair lasts a week and we have the property 52 weeks,” leaving room for other events to be held during the year, he said.

On top of that, he said, “We have a real strong agricultural base, dairy farmers particularly.”

The closest pumpkin competition is in Oswego, according to Mr. Hotis.

Bob Andrews, Gouverneur, entered his first-ever pumpkin contest, but it was a nail-biter because of the hot, dry summer weather.

“I was worried if I was going to have any pumpkins,” he said.

Then he discovered the secret — using a soaker hose.

“That’s what it takes to grow,” Mr. Andrews said.

He started his seeds around April 15 in an ice cream pail, allowing them to germinate before transplanting them into the ground around May 4. The end result, he said, was four giant pumpkins and six smaller ones.

Once Sunday’s contest was over, Mr. Andrews said he planned to salvage the seeds and give them to some Future Farmer of America youth to plant in their two greenhouses and grow more pumpkins.

“Hopefully it will be a money-maker for the kids,” he said.

The Pumpkin Festival, which was sponsored by the Gouverneur and St. Lawrence County Ag Society in conjunction with Cornell Cooperative Extension, was a weekend-long affair, starting on Saturday with National Barrel Horse Association barrel racing, vintage snowmobile show, craft show, flea market, wagon rides, a Chinese auction, bounce houses and kid’s activities that included pumpkin painting, face painting, make a scarecrow, a fishing game, bowling in an effort to knock down pumpkin-themed pins and a ring toss.

“It went over well,” Mr. Hotis said.

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