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Girthy gourds at the 27th annual Weigh Off

Seth Vessey stands with his sixth place 397.5 giant pumpkin at Vessey’s Seeds in York on Saturday. Seth and his family enter the annual Pumpkin Weigh-in every year. Ernesto Carranza/The Guardian
Seth Vessey stands with his sixth place 397.5 giant pumpkin at Vesey’s Seeds in York on Saturday. Seth and his family enter the annual Pumpkin Weigh Off every year. Ernesto Carranza/The Guardian

YORK - Alan Aten’s 1,202-pound giant pumpkin took the grand prize Saturday at the 27th annual Pumpkin Weigh Off at Vesey's Seeds in York.

“I think I am the only guy here that has had (a pumpkin or a squash) in since it started in 1994,” said Aten.

The Springvale farmer got first place and $500 for his pumpkin, plus will have his name engraved in the James Murphy Memorial Trophy. He finished second in 2018.

Aten said this past summer was poor for pumpkin growing because of the extreme weather changes that caused fields to get drenched, experience drought and face Hurricane Dorian

Aten called it the three Ds.

“(Pumpkins) won’t grow in the cold, they won’t grow in a drought and Dorian took all the pumpkin leaves off. With no leaves, they slow down a lot when it comes to growing,” he said.

“It would be like me and you trying to work with only one arm.”

On Saturday there were only 10 entries for the field pumpkins, first time growers, best looking pumpkin, giant squash and giant pumpkin competitions.

Last year between 25 and 30 growers participated. Aten’s said in a year, it was normal to have drought or too much rain and cold, but because of the three Ds this year, it forced many

farmers to bow out of the competition.

“It was a bad year, but I still did alright,” he said.

When asked what Aten will do with his prized pumpkin, he said his cows will make a meal of it and put it to good use and he will sell the seeds from the pumpkin.

The weigh off is traditionally good competition for Aten and his family as he will regularly go up against his brother Gordon Aten and his son Charles Aten.

“It is all in good fun,” he said.

The event was inspired and created by the late Dr. James Murphy, Alten’s former neighbour and family friend.

It originally was held in Springvale to draw people out to Murphy’s Christmas tree farm and was later moved to the Vesey’s Seeds location.

Seth, Amber and Cassidy Vessey said they had fun competing on Saturday, despite the heavy down-pour of rain.

Each brought home a ribbon with Cassidy coming in third and Amber coming in fourth for their giant squashes and Seth coming in sixth for his giant pumpkin.

“It is a big tradition for our families,” said Amber. “It was a great turnout despite the weather.”

Seth was especially happy with his win, getting a cash prize of $35 for his 397.5-pound giant pumpkin.

He said he planned to put up his ribbon on the house porch on their family farm in York and will be entering the competition next year.

When asked how he feels about his chances in 2020, he said “I feel good.”

https://twitter.com/Ernesto_Carranz

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