The 12th annual Damariscotta Pumpkinfest kicked off with a weigh-off full of both triumph and loss, as one giant pumpkin nearly cracked the event’s record, while another cracked itself en route to the event.
The ninth annual weigh-off took place at Pinkham’s Plantation in Damariscotta on Sunday, Sept. 30.
The winning white pumpkin, grown by Alex Noel, of Abington, Conn., weighed in at 1,713 pounds.
Noel said he had never gone to the weigh-off in Damariscotta before, but wanted to check it out and meet Maine pumpkin growers.
“I heard it was a lot of fun,” Noel said. “I’m glad I went.”
Connecticut’s state record is from 2015, when a 1,992.5-pound pumpkin grown in Connecticut was weighed at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts.
The pumpkin was just 43 pounds shy of the 1,756-pound Maine record, set by Elroy Morgan, of Charleston, at the Damariscotta event last year. This year Morgan’s entry took second place, at 1,695 pounds.
The U.S. record is 2,528 pounds.
Noel said he has been growing giant pumpkins on and off for the past 15 years, and this year’s pumpkin was the largest he has ever grown. His previous personal best was a 1,223-pound pumpkin in 2007.
For his prize-winning pumpkin, Noel received $2,500 and a plaque.
Noel thanked the volunteers at the event, as well as event co-founders Bill Clark and Buzz Pinkham, owner of Pinkham’s Plantation. “They were very accommodating,” he said.
One participant who was not as fortunate was Matt Tate, a first-time grower from Massachusetts.
Tate said he attended the festival last year and found leftover pumpkin seeds on the ground. He decided to bring them home and try to grow a pumpkin for this year’s event.
He grew a giant, but on the trip from Massachusetts to Damariscotta, the pumpkin split when he hit a bump in Brunswick.
Even though the giant pumpkin, gushing out water and seeds, was no longer eligible for the contest, Tate was all smiles as volunteers weighed his damaged pumpkin.
Tate’s pumpkin weighed in at 901 pounds, which master of ceremonies Charlie Lopresti said meant the pumpkin had probably been over 1,000 pounds before it started losing its insides.
One thing all the pumpkin growers had in common this year was difficult weather during the growing season.
Lopresti said this summer was hard on New England pumpkin growers due to the lack of rain at the beginning of the season and the excessive rain and humidity in the later months. He said this summer was Maine’s most humid since the 1980s.
“It was a tough year for everybody, nationwide,” Clark said.
“It’s really been an extremely challenging year,” Noel said.
In spite of the weather, Sarah Whitty, of Veazie, managed to come in third place with a 1,521.5-pound pumpkin, her first fruit weighing over 1,000 pounds since she started entering the contest.
Whitty, who was wearing a sweatshirt that said “great pumpkin believer,” said she named her pumpkin “Watson” due to the amount of electricity it took to grow it.
It is tradition for those who grow their first pumpkin over 1,000 pounds to get a Pumpkinfest jacket.
The top 10 finishers in the adult giant pumpkin division were Alex Noel, 1,713 pounds; Elroy Morgan, 1,695; Sarah Whitty, 1,521.5; Charlie Lopresti, 1,368.5; Mike Murphy, 1,232.5; Richard and Sue Powell, 1,210.5; Wes Page, 1,152.5; Scott St. Laurent, 1,085; Guy Peaslee, 668; and Derek Curtis, 487.
Murphy’s 1,232.5-pound bright-orange pumpkin won the Howard Dill Award for being the prettiest pumpkin over 500 pounds.
The adult giant squash division had two entries, with Lopresti winning first for his 598-pound green squash. He said that in the five or six years he has tried to grow giant squash, this was the first one that made it to a scale.
Joseph Gaboury, of Readfield, took second with his 339.5-pound squash.
Catherine Lopresti, 9, won the youth giant pumpkin division with her 529-pound fruit. The rest of the youth results were Jeremiah Winslow, 301 pounds; Isaiah Winslow, 287; and Elijah Winslow, 235.5.
In the adult long gourd category, Elroy Morgan came in first at 123 inches, followed by Sarah Whitty, 113.5; and Byron Hale, 104.75.
Hale, of Bangor, also weighed a 17.5-pound watermelon.
The volunteer grower weigh-off was held Saturday, Sept. 29. The top 10 finishers in the adult division were Briar Bragdon, 833 pounds; Jennifer Libby, 701.5; Tirzah Winslow, 671, David Patnaude, 586; Scott Gove, 516.5; Quincy Perry, 486; Sean Barnes, 479; Cindy Sherman, 476.5; Cassandra Beaulieu, 449; and Lisa Lane, 443.
The top 10 finishers in the youth division were Isaiah Winslow, 432.5 pounds; Elijah Winslow, 334; Jeremiah Winslow, 333.5; Jayden Brown, 252; Jayden Brown, 245.5; Jayden Brown, 218.5; James Sikorski, 92.5; James Sikorski, 87.5; Pam Hardy, 65; and James Sikorski, 35.
Damariscotta Pumpkinfest will continue with its most popular events, including a pumpkin drop and pumpkin-boat regatta, throughout Columbus Day weekend.
For more information on the weigh-off and the rest of Pumpkinfest, pick up a copy of The Lincoln County News’ Sept. 27 special section at locations around the Twin Villages or visit mainepumpkinfest.com.