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September 27, 2012

Giant pumpkins highlight weekend in Cooperstown

FLY CREEK —   The world record pumpkin maxed the scales out at 1,818.5 pounds. That record was set last year at the Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest weigh-off in Ormstown, Quebec, Canada.

  The largest pumpkin at Saturday’s pumpkin weigh-off in Cooperstown did not break any records, but tipped the scales at 1,509.5 pounds. The winner was grown by Pete Sweet of Great Barrington, Mass.

  His pumpkin was larger than last year’s 1,423.1-pound-winner brought by Gary Adams of Lafayette. Adams took third place with a 1,366.5-pounder.

  Sweet’s giant was the final pumpkin weighed, needing to beat veteran pumpkin grower Andy Wolf’s 1,417.5-pounder.

  “I’ve been here before, but I have never won anything like this before,” Sweet said after being named the winner. “This is a personal best for me.”

  Sweet said he will use his prize money to cover his the expenses during the year. Perhaps, he said, he will get a new irrigation system and well house.

  The winner said he has been growing giant pumpkins for three years. However, he said he always grew pumpkins as a child and likes to grow lots of other things.

  Sweet said he has two more pumpkins — one that will go to Durham, Conn., and the other to Rhode Island in October. He said neither is as big as the one he brought to Cooperstown.

  The third-place finisher, Adams, had three pumpkins entered in the weigh-off and said he has three larger ones growing back home. He plans to take one to Oswego, another to Clarence and the last to Canfield, Ohio.

  Adams made his first adventure to the Cooperstown PumpkinFest in 2009 when he brought what he described as “just a baby,” which weighed 469 pounds. Not only did he win the weigh-off last year, but he grew the biggest pumpkin in the state in 2011. His 1,613 pound pumpkin won first place in the World Pumpkin Weigh-Off at the Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence.

  Adams said he did not expect to come back to Cooperstown this year to get the title back.

  “I’d be happy to place in the top 10,” he said right before the last three pumpkins were about to be weighed Saturday. At the time, he was in the lead.

   This marked Adams’ fourth year growing giant pumpkins and he said he is still learning. He said he educates himself by doing research on the internet and by trying new things.

 “I dropped one once,” he said. “Last year, the one that was supposed to come here was about 1,500 pounds and I dropped it.”

  The heat this year did not provide an ideal growing environment, according to Adams. He said he had to do a lot of extra watering.

 “I went with a new drip irrigation system this year,” he said. “That may have hindered the weight of my pumpkins because it is new and I am still learning how to use it.”

  He is not done competing, however.

“I am hoping to beat the state record this year,” Adams said. “I missed it by what, about 20 pounds, not even 20 last year.”

  The New York state record is set at 1,631.5 pounds.

  There have not been any records broken in Cooperstown since David Hilstolsky of Wyoming, Pa., broke his state’s record for the largest pumpkin with a 1,557-pound orange giant in 2009.

  The weigh-off was just one event featured at the Cooperstown Chamber’s two-day PumpkinFest. Pumpkins were trucked to Lakefront Park to be raced in Otsego Lake Sunday morning.

  This marked Richard Clancy’s third year racing in the Davidson Jewelry-sponsored pumpkin. He said the only tip that he has picked up throughout the years is to put something down on the bottom of the pumpkin so that it is not slippery.

  “I just don’t want to tip over,” the 23-year-old said.

  Clancy’s fear became a reality, however. He flipped in the water after reaching the halfway point of his race.

  Clancy was in one of the smaller pumpkins. Before the race, he said the pumpkins seemed much smaller than in the past, but said other factors contribute to a good racing pumpkin.

  “A lot of it depends on how well it is carved and the person who is sitting in it,” he said.

  The sponsor race was won by New York Pizzeria owner Art Bowden. This marked his third year participating in the event.

  It looked like it was going to be a close finish because Courtney Yonce, in the Country Inn pumpkin, was nearing the finish line when she rolled face-first into the water. Officials said she did not make it across the line.

  The pumpkin growers and community members also got a chance to hop inside pumpkins and race across the lake.


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