It was ten or twelve years ago when Ted Story brought three-time Roland Pumpkin Fair (RPF) Champion, Carman's Jason Terwin, to the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off and got him involved and he's been back in it ever since.
Terwin is the reigning champion, snagging the $1500 prize, and his name on the trophy for a third year in a row. Terwin's pumpkin came in at 1,539 pounds at the Great Pumpkin and Vegetable Commonwealth Weigh-Off Saturday morning. In 2022, Terwin's pumpkin weighed in at 1,360.5, with his winning 2021 entry coming in at 1,377.5 pounds.
Long-time volunteer in multiple roles, with his newest as President of the RPF, Derek Baschuk described the morning that followed the pancake breakfast.
"The weigh-off is the exciting time of the pumpkin fair. This year, we had 28 giant entries to weigh, and we wound up having a great top three finish, and Jason Terwin is once again our champion. That's three consecutive years. So, congratulations to Jason."
Baschuk said there is a connection between entrants, and those who compete in the pumpkin weigh off.
"In the growing community, we really see and call ourselves a family, whether it's sharing ideas, sharing seeds, inviting each other to the different patches, there's just so much camaraderie that does happen with this event."
Terwin said dedication, luck, good seed, as well as being outside in the garden, attributed to his success. He thinks he may give up growing giants after this year and completing the three-peat.
Baschuk explained why people come back year after year, with the highlight of taking pictures with the giant pumpkins following the weigh-off.
"Where else do you get to come and see a 1,000 plus pound pumpkin? You stand by it; you just feel very minuscule in the presence of it."
The crowd gave an audible gasp when hearing long-time pumpkin weigh-off entrant, and 2017 and 2018 champion, Charlie Bernstrom's story of his trip from Lancaster, Minnesota to bring his pumpkin to Roland for the competition.
"We were going to bring a pumpkin here yesterday, and we picked it yesterday morning, and we noticed that it had a crack on the bottom. So, since it went into the cavity, it wasn't good. Then it would be disqualified from here. Then we went and weighed it, and it was 2,100 pounds."
His voice trailed off as he went on.
"I didn't get mad. I guess you expect it, but I just was kind of in shock, because I had no clue it was going to be like that until we lifted the pumpkin. It was still a good sound, pumpkin, but... not able to compete in Roland."
Bernstrom currently holds the record for the largest pumpkin ever weighed at Roland. That came in 2018 with his 1,753.5 pound monster.
On September 24th in Wisconsin, Bernstrom had a pumpkin weigh in at 2,131 pounds, and has another one in the garden marked for the next competition weighing almost 2,600 pounds. Only time will tell if that one will make it closer to home at the Stillwater, MN Harvest Fest.
Bernstrom said his daughters come out to the patch with him every day, and he brought them to Roland anyway to enjoy the great fair and friendly people.
Baschuk said all the hard work from many volunteers and sponsors made the event what it was today.
"It's a special family event, and we do really associate our fair as a family fair. Last one of the Summer, or start of the Fall, however you want to look at it. And, just like how my family is very heavily involved with the organization, volunteering through it, we have so many other local families who also help out. We just love to see so many people come out to Roland."
Prizes were also given for the largest watermelon, tomato and squash. With some novel giant sugar beets from Schanzenfeld's Henry Banman keeping the crowd entertained in between weigh-offs. He was the only large squash entrant this year, with more encouraged to enter next year.
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