Altoona, WI

Giant Pumpkin Festival Comes to Altoona

Walter Rhein

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There is a chill in the air and that means that it is pumpkin season. Pumpkin growing is a fundamental Wisconsin tradition. Everybody is familiar with carving pumpkins to decorate your doorway on Halloween. But there are some people who take pumpkin growing to the extreme.

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On Saturday, September 25th from 9AM to 2PM, people had the opportunity to see some enormous pumpkins at the 2021 River Prairie Ginormous Pumpkin Festival. The event was presented by Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire.

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The event was put on in association with the Wisconsin Giant Pumpkin Growers organization. This organization was founded in 1984 to celebrate the achievements of giant pumpkin growers and teach the techniques involved.

The organization names the farmer who grows the heaviest pumpkin as Wisconsin State champion. In addition to a plaque, the winner receives a cash prize of $600. Awards are issued for the largest pumpkin, squash, watermelon, tomato, field pumpkin, bushel gourd, marrow and the longest gourd.

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The pumpkin festival took place at River Prairie Park in Altoona. The park is a nice venue that overlooks the river and features a variety of walking paths and unique sculptures.

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The festival was a nice opportunity for children to walk around the contest entries and delight at the size of the pumpkins. Past Wisconsin State Champion winners have grown pumpkins in excess of two thousand pounds, but even an eight hundred pound pumpkin or squash is very impressive.

The contest entries were moved around with a fork lift, and stems were removed in order to get a precise weight.

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In addition to the pumpkin contest, there was also a food truck. Street vendors set up tents to sell a variety of pumpkin related products. Finally, Group Health Cooperative of Eau Claire had a small tent where they gave away frisbees, stress toys, and small plastic pumpkins.

The process of growing a giant pumpkin takes a year of preparation. Farmers must prepare a year in advance and get their soil ready for the attempt. Special seeds are used. Soil moisture is checked daily and a special blend of fertilizers is used.

The giant pumpkin festival was a nice morning activity. Their were plenty of families in attendance with smiles on their faces as they walked between the rows of the gigantic pumpkins.

Growing huge pumpkins is a fun way to learn effective farming techniques. Farming makes our society possible and it is worthwhile to celebrate the skill level of local farmers at festivals like this.

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Walter Rhein is an author with Perseid Press. He also does a weekly column for The Writing Cooperative on Medium.

Chippewa Falls, WI
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