How much does that load of pumpkins weigh?
By Holly Waddell
That was the question of the day on October 8 at the Giant Pumpkin Festival in Bison. Hosted by Blessed Sacrament Church, the festival featured food, fun, games, and guessing on a gorgeous autumn Sunday.
The instigator of this event was parishioner Lynn Waddell. In 2022 he was gifted three giant pumpkin seeds from a champion grower’s crop in eastern South Dakota. He planted them in his garden in Regent, N.D. and one pumpkin from that planting made it to just over 100 pounds. Thus began Lynn’s quest to try growing a bigger pumpkin “next year.”
He ordered a one-ounce packet of giant pumpkin seeds thinking he might get eight to 10 seeds to plant in his 2023 garden — the packet arrived containing over 100 seeds. That’s when the idea blossomed to share the seeds with others in the parish and invite them to grow some pumpkins for a fall pumpkin festival. Several families accepted the challenge and compared reports of pumpkin progress throughout the summer. By early September it was evident that there was going to be enough of a crop to proceed with plans for a festival including contests for the largest pumpkins, decorated pumpkins, and a load-weight guessing game. The public was invited to participate in all the contests and activities.
Harvest time rolled around with its own challenge … how to load the pumpkins for transport to the church. Farm equipment, some muscle from helpful volunteers, and a bit of leveraged planning managed to get 26 of Lynn’s largest specimens safely placed in the stock trailer ready for the road from Regent to Bison. Others brought their entries in the beds of their pickups, or the back of the family vehicle. Weight was determined by applying a specific formula to three measurements taken over the top of each pumpkin. Decorated pumpkins were entered into two categories determined by the age of the artist
At a buck a chance, folks were eager to take a guess at the total load weight of the 26 pumpkins in Lynn’s trailer. After enjoying lunch, some lively games of BINGO were played and youngsters could choose from a variety of games in which to participate. A variety of food and baked goods, art, home dec, and garden produce was offered for sale.
Cash and other prizes were awarded to winners in each contest. Heaviest Pumpkin: Lynn Waddell-183 lbs.; James Stadler-168 lbs.; Kinsley Hendrickson-144 lbs.. It was a close ballot count by Peoples’ Choice to determine the winners of the Decorated Pumpkins. In the 12 and younger category the favorite was Amber Carmichael, next was Audrey Holmes, and for third place there was a 3-way tie between Mecarty Rice, Oakleigh Seidel, and Mikayla Stadler. In the 13 and over age group Tommi Jo Rice earned the top spot, Sierra Hendrickson-2nd, and Julia Carmichael-3rd. Winner of the raffle prize of a BigFrig 70 Quart Cooler was Sue Schmitz. The closest to come to guessing the load weight of those 26 pumpkins (just 12 pounds over) was Gary Wiseman of Regent, ND. Second place guess was Jon Lawhead at 31 pounds under, and third place was Jess Carmichael at 34 pounds under. Those 26 pumpkins tipped the scale at 2,580 pounds.