1000 lb. pumpkin - The winning 998.4 pound pumpkin grown by Andrea and Zach Johnson is wheeled out to be weighed during the WIndthorst Pumpkin Growing competition. The event helped to raise $5,000 that was donated to the Kipling First Responders.

Sometimes reality is bigger than anything you might imagine.
For example, there was that fellow named ‘Jack’ who won Fairy Tale ‘fame’ by growing a reasonably impressive beanstalk.
But in Windthorst, there are folks that grow very real, really big, pumpkins.
Moreover, the effort that those growers put into raising those really big pumpkins this year, yielded a very impressive donation for the Kipling First Responders.
Bernard Steele (Windthorst Lions Club) says that Windthorst’s Pumpkin Growing Competition began with a ‘seed’ he planted nine years ago.
“I got the idea from a Pumpkin Growing Contest that was held down in Fairlight. I came back to the Lions Club here and floated the idea of having a Pumpkin Growing Contest that would be a fundraiser for local charities. The members liked the idea. So, we had our first Pumpkin Growing Competition in 2013.”
Steele explains that the competition begins in the spring.
“The contest actually involves two fundraising events. In May, we hold a Calcutta. Individuals are able to ‘buy’ a grower.
Then in the fall, we hold a ‘weigh in’. We weigh the pumpkins and find out which grower is the winner. Half of the money raised from the Calcutta is paid out to the individual who purchased the winning grower. The other half goes to fund a Lions’ project, or support a local charity or non-profit organization.”
He says that over the years, the competition has been used to fund Windthorst Lions projects or donated to a local charity or non-profit organization.
“We’ve helped to fund community projects like the playground through the pumpkin competition. We’ve also donated the proceeds to groups like the Kipling Health Foundation. On average, we usually end up raising around $6,000 – $7,000 with this event.”
While the pandemic made it impossible to hold a fundraising event in 2020, Steele says that this year the Lions Club decided to proceed with both fundraising events.
“We did have 10 growers who took part in the contest last year, just to keep it going. Then, we decided in April that we were going to go ahead with it. There was still a lot of uncertainty about how things were going to look. But we felt that we had to do something, whatever we could do, or else the competition might just die away.”
Steele explains that although they start with the same seed, the growers each use various “secret” methods and techniques, hoping to emerge the winner in this “friendly” competition.
“The pumpkin seeds we use are ‘Dill’s Atlantic Giants’ from Howard Dill (a seed company based in Nova Scotia). All of the growers are given that seed. But after that, every grower uses their own secrets and techniques to try and grow the biggest pumpkin.
It’s all in fun, but the growers aren’t very willing to share their secrets either!
This year, by about the August long weekend, I was looking at the pumpkin I was growing and feeling rather confident. Then I called Jim Moulding (last year’s winner) and talked to him. He was pretty tight lipped about how things were going with his pumpkin. But he finally said, ‘I think we’re bigger than last year.’ That’s when I knew I might be in trouble!”
Last Friday, approximately 75 people came out for Windthorst’s ‘Great Pumpkin Weigh-In’ as the 10 growers who had taken part in that community’s Pumpkin Growing Competition brought their pumpkins into the Community Center for the ‘Weigh In’.
Most of the pumpkins grown this year weighed between 200 – 350 pounds.
However, there were two pumpkins that stood out.
The second-place pumpkin (which weighed in at 886.2 lbs.) was grown by two retired farmers from the Broadview/Grenfell area – Jim Moulding and Neil Neuls.
The winning pumpkin was grown by Andrea Johnson and her son Zach, who are also from the Broadview/Grenfell area).
Their pumpkin weighed in at a record 998.4 lbs. (far exceeding the previous record of 684 lbs.)
Johnson says that she and her son were inspired by her father (Jim Moulding) to enter the competition.
“My Dad grew the winning pumpkin last year and I was interested in trying to grow one too. Then my son decided he wanted to do this, so we decided to grow one together. I’m not sure how much water I put on it. But I had an irrigation system set up and watered the pumpkin a couple of times a day. And I used some of the techniques that Dad showed me, and they worked!.”
Johnson adds that she and Zach are also looking forward to next year.
“This was our first time growing a pumpkin, and we won! Next year, we’ll be back bigger and better!”
The evening ended with Windthorst Lions Club presenting the Kipling First Responders with a cheque for $5,000.
Johnson’s mother, LeeAnn Moulding, who purchased the pair last spring, also received $4,850.
As well, each of the top three growers received a cash prize of: $300 for first place, $200 for second place and $100 for third place.
Steele says that plans are already being made for next year’s competition.
“I have had one grower who said that they might not take part next year. It is pretty time-consuming. But I intend to ask that person again in February. By that time… they might have forgotten how much time they spent this year!
But I’ve also had three people come up to me and say that they’d like to try growing a pumpkin. We’ll be keeping it to 10 growers. That’s the number that seems to work best for us. But by the looks of things, the competition will keep going!”
So, what is it about trying to grow a giant pumpkin that people find so appealing?
“I don’t know” says Steele with a smile. “It might be the challenge. It might be the competition, gardeners like to compete. It might just be that it’s a lot of fun!”

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