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Windsor's pumpkin weigh-off, regatta expected to draw thousands to region

Farmer Danny Dill poses with one of the giant pumpkins, likely weighing between 600 and 700 pounds (272 to 318 kilograms). Dill said he’s focusing on pumpkins like this one this year for the shape and colour, rather than the sheer size.
Farmer Danny Dill poses with one of the giant pumpkins, likely weighing between 600 and 700 pounds (272 to 318 kilograms). Dill said he’s focusing on pumpkins like this one this year for the shape and colour, rather than the sheer size.

WINDSOR, N.S. — Danny Dill, owner of the Dill Farm in Windsor, where the giant pumpkins originated, said he’s expecting a large number of participants in the weigh-off and regatta this year.

Having the events a week before and after the long weekend may have something to do with that, he added.

The 33rd annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Weigh-Off will be held on Sept. 30 at the Dill Family Farm and the 19th annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Regatta will be held two weeks later on Oct. 15, 2017 on Lake Pisiquid.

“It’s actually the first time we’ve ever done the weigh-off in September, but when I was looking at the calendar I noticed the Thanksgiving long weekend was on the first weekend of October,” Dill said, adding that he thought it would make sense to spread out the two events.

Maura Macumber, 9, beams before reaching the finish of the 2016 Pumpkin Regatta.

“Taking the long weekend off to focus on the farm, gives us a two-week window, and then the regatta the following Sunday,” he said. “It spreads it out a bit for the area. If we did the weigh-off on the 30th and the regatta on the long weekend, everything would be done the first weekend of October.”

During the weigh-off, giant pumpkins, squash, field pumpkins, long gourds, watermelons and tomatoes compete against nearly 100 global weigh-off sites, all members of the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth.

Dill said having a two-week buffer between the weigh off and the regatta shouldn’t impact the integrity of the pumpkins that people will be riding in.

“They’ll be fine; there’s pumpkins we’ve used at the regatta that have been shown at the exhibition,” he said. “Every year we’re bound to use two or three, but they hold up pretty good.”

He said that both weekends are shaping up to be big ones for the area, in more ways than one.

“There’s a grower in Prince Edward Island that might take a shot at the Atlantic record,” he said. “He’s somewhere in the area of 1,500 pounds so far, and 1,813 is the number to beat. I think he’s got a shot.”

Dill said there are some other farmers in the Valley region that also have a shot at breaking the record.

He said what makes the giant pumpkins so amazing is that these massive gourds grow up to 1,800 pounds (816 kilograms) in approximately 90 days.

Dill said he’s also expecting to see a large number of participants in the regatta, possibly more than 43.

Last year’s regatta had approximately 36 participants.

“I really believe the reason that is, is because it’s not on the long weekend,” he said. “A lot of people are traveling, or visiting family. This opens it up to more people.”

Lackluster growing season

Still, Dill said one thing working against him a bit has been a challenging growing season, with large downpours of rain in the summer stunting growth.

“On a scale of one to 10, this season has been a four,” he said.

Dill said the late, cold spring put them behind planting by about two weeks.

“But really, we got some heavy downpours. I said ‘we don’t need all of this rain at once.’”

Another issue Dill has been contending with is a group of intrepid deer, that have acquired a taste for pumpkin.

He has some electric fencing in place, but even that isn’t keeping them out.

“I have 10 big fields of pumpkins, and they’ve probably damaged over half the crop,” he said.

“It’s been a battle, and it’s getting worse every year.”

Dill said the biggest pumpkin he has at his farm is probably around 700 and 800 pounds (272 to 318 kilograms).

VanEssa Roberts takes down information as Catharina Ansems' pumpkin is brought to the scales. It placed second, weighing in at 595 kg (1,312 lbs).

Local governments ready to welcome visitors

VanEssa Roberts, director of community development, tourism and recreation for the Town of Windsor, said she expects between 8,000 and 10,000 people to visit the region for the regatta, and approximately 1,000 people for the weigh-off.

She said the economic spin-off for local businesses is hard to determine.

A large contingent of volunteers, corporate sponsors and first responders work together to make the large influx of visitors as smooth as possible, she said.

The Wishmaker Parade of Pumpkin Paddlers, which supports the Children’s Wish Foundation, ‪starts at noon on Oct. 15. The parade runs from the Hants County Exhibition Park to downtown Windsor.

Roberts said there will be loads of activity at the Windsor waterfront while eager spectators wait for the start of the pumpkin regatta at 2 p.m.

Paddlers spend many hours preparing their personal vegetable crafts (PVC) for the 500-metre race across Lake Pisaquid.

West Hants Warden Abraham Zebian will be joining a member of their municipal staff in a doubles pumpkin during the regatta.

“West Hants gives a sizeable grant to the pumpkin regatta, sponsors it, and promotes it through our joint tourism with Windsor,” Zebian said. “We will be issuing a challenge to the town in a race to add to the festivities.”

As of press time, the town has donated a pumpkin to the Avon View High School International Students and won’t be entering the race themselves.

Windsor Mayor Anna Allen said she wouldn’t be paddling a pumpkin herself, but would be cheering on the competitors.

“I’d sooner watch myself; I’m not that brave,” Allen said. “I look forward to seeing everybody there."

Allen said the benefit of the regatta is that it brings world-wide attention to the Windsor area.

“People just really want to come and see this event,” Allen said. “I met a couple this summer from Australia, who were on a world cruise, and they wanted to see where the pumpkins were grown.”

Zebian said the event is incredibly important to the entire area as people come from afar to experience it.

If you go

What: 33rd annual Windsor–West Hants Pumpkin Weigh-Off

When: Sept. 30, 2017 at 10 a.m.

Where: Dill Family Farm, 400 College Rd., Windsor, Nova Scotia

What: 19th annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Regatta and Children’s Wish Parade

Where: Lake Pisiquid, along the Windsor and Falmouth waterfront

When: Oct. 15, 2017; parade begins at noon with the regatta starting at 2 p.m.

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