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Great Pumpkins Abound In Port City

OSWEGO, NY – The “backup plan” turned out to be the best.

Joe Pukos poses with his winning entry – a 1,219.5-pound pumpkin.
Joe Pukos poses with his winning entry – a 1,219.5-pound pumpkin.

After a second place finish last year with a 1,149.5 pounder, Joe Pukos took home the top prize at the 2008 Oswego Great Pumpkin Fest with a 1,219.5 entry.

He was followed by Alan Nesbitt with a 1,141.0 pumpkin.

In 2007, Nesbitt came in third, also behind Pukos, with a pumpkin weighing 1,115.5 pounds.

The only thing bigger than the crowd at the 2008 Oswego Great Pumpkin Fest was the pumpkins. A few pesky showers did little to dampen the festive atmosphere.

Jack Tonkin (tan jacket), Reatha VonHoltz and Alexa VonHoltz (pink jacket) check out some of the gigantic pumpkins on display.
Jack Tonkin (tan jacket), Reatha VonHoltz and Alexa VonHoltz (pink jacket) check out some of the gigantic pumpkins on display.

Nearly three dozen pumpkins were entered. The last two behemoths topped the 1,000-pound plateau.

“This actually was my backup plan,” Pukos admitted. “I had another plant, but real late fouled up and had this as a back up and it grew really, really well. It wasn’t one I had planned to grow but it just took off. My two nicest pumpkins cracked. So, this is actually number three.”

He is from Lester, south of Rochester. There was a lot of rain – “but it wasn’t too bad,” he said. “There were several hail storms but they all just missed me.”

His personal best is 1,231, he said.

“I didn’t have my sprinklers hooked up for almost six weeks,” he said. “Usually, I use like 100 gallons a day. But this year just kept raining and raining and raining.”

John Soehner poses with his winning squash – 512.5 pounds.
John Soehner poses with his winning squash – 512.5 pounds.

The weighing started just before 10:30 a.m. and lasted several hours.

“This year was a rainy start, but a sunny finish. Some of our growers were missing in action because they didn’t have a fruit to bring. The growing season was tough on giants,” explained Connie Cosemento of the Pumpkin Fest Committee. “They need a lot of water, but too much causes rot and if they grow too fast the split or ‘explode.'”

That was the case for many, she added.

Emily Thompson gets some help from Giuseppe Decaro in adding the nose and mouth to her gourd face creation.
Emily Thompson gets some help from Giuseppe Decaro in adding the nose and mouth to her gourd face creation.

“Additionally, many plants got wiped out by wind and hail. The wind takes the huge wing-like leaves and tears them from the stem or breaks them and, of course, the hail makes mince meat. This is damage that the plant does not recover from. However, we had some survivors and are ecstatic,” she said.

Angela Tesoriero of Hannibal was one of the first-time growers entered.

“Last I grew some pumpkins and I had some a little bigger than these,” she said referring to her nearly 200 pound entry. “So this year I said I was going to enter this.”

For 7-year-old Caleb Robinson of APW this was his second year at the festival. He weighed in with a 75-pound pumpkin in 2007. His 2008 entry was 281 pounds.

“Good seeds, a lot of time, effort and a lot of fertilizer,” is what Bob Wayman said it took to grow his 628.0 pumpkin – good for 10th place over all. “My biggest one split on me a couple of weeks ago.”

Chrystal Smith (holding Melody Lacy) helps Serenity Lacy and Mackenzie Bennett pick out some of the smaller pumpkins.
Chrystal Smith (holding Melody Lacy) helps Serenity Lacy and Mackenzie Bennett pick out some of the smaller pumpkins.

Several growers noted that they had larger pumpkins that split on them, as well. They blamed it on the wet growing season. Some, like Oswego County, said they had hail damage, too.

Christine DuRoss proved woman can grow giant pumpkins just as well as men.

Her 938.5 entry placed fourth.

“The weather was pretty tough,” she said.

Nesbitt said he’s been doing this for 24 seasons and a little bit of luck always helps out.

Kate DePentu enjoys some of the goodies at Pumpkin Fest. The apple dumplings were her favorite, she said. "I have a weakness for apple dumplings," she added.
Kate DePentu enjoys some of the goodies at Pumpkin Fest. The apple dumplings were her favorite, she said.

“We lucked out this year. A lot of the guys got hit with hail. We didn’t get any,” he said. “This is my personal best. I lost one this year that weighed 1,426, it split open. But those are the break.”

Lou and Marilyn Eck took home the prize for top watermelon with a 52.5-pound entry.

“Three years ago we had one that 132 pounds and two year ago it was 122,” she said.

“It’s been such a horrible year to try and grow stuff,” he added.

“Last year, we lost our entries,” she continued. “We own Goat Hill Farm. Last year, our goat got out and ate everything.”

Ethan LoCastro checks out his reflection after getting a snake face painting.
Ethan LoCastro checks out his reflection after getting a snake face painting.

This year, vandals destroyed their giant pumpkins, she added.

Cody Szatkowski helped Dave McMillan tend to his great pumpkins.

“We’re going to get a double trailer next year and we’re both going to enter,” McMillian said. “He was a big help. He was a big help. He’s ready to grow one on his own and enter it.”

The weather plays a big part in pumpkin growing, agreed Hannibal resident Steve Westcott who earned honors for having the largest pumpkin (664.0) from Oswego County. He grows his organically, he added.

The Man In The Moon Candies booth was manned for several generations of the Stone family.
The Man In The Moon Candies booth was manned for several generations of the Stone family.

It takes a lot of sun to grow a great pumpkin the great pumpkin growers noted.

Aside from the pumpkin and other weigh-ins, this year’s pumpkin festival had dozens of craft and food vendors set up in East Park, including a wine and cheese tasting event, as well as a wide variety of goods, music and activities.

Danielle Hayden of the chamber arranges the names and numbers on the tote board as she helps keep tabs on the leaders during the weighing of the pumpkins.
Danielle Hayden of the chamber arranges the names and numbers on the tote board as she helps keep tabs on the leaders during the weighing of the pumpkins.

The results for 2008 are in. The top ten pumpkins are:
1219.5 Joe Pukos
1141.0 Alan Nessbsitt
947.5 Tim Finn
938.5 Christine DuRoss
927.0 Brian Staring
823.5 Walt Mirriam
760.5 Jeff Alberts
760.5 Dave Schaeffer
664.0 Steve Westcott
628.0 Bob Wayman

Squash:
512.5 John Soehner

Watermelon:
52.5 Louis Eck

Longest Gourd:
62.75 inches Richard DeLapp

Heaviest Tomato:
2.5 lbs Steve Westcott
2.5 lbs Jennifer Goodsell

Sadie sits patiently waiting for a nibble of her master's cookie.
Sadie sits patiently waiting for a nibble of her master's cookie

Other awards:
Dick Pratt Award from George Krul:
$50 to Mike Tesoriero (for most enthusiastic)


Oswego County largest pumpkin:

Steve Westcott $100

Farthest away grower:

Dave Schaeffer $100

Closest to “hidden weight:”
Henry Grunert a rototiller provided by Raby’s Ace Hardware

Howard Dill Award (developer of Atlantic Giant pumpkins) for most orange pumpkin:
Dave McMillan (an engraved plaque)

Drawing for the Krul Lifter (designed and made by George Krul to lift the giants):
Jeff Gibbs

Almost top 10 award (9 lbs. of the coveted Neptune fish fertilizer) by Neptune:
Steve Greene in 11th place.

In 2007, Bill Bobier’s pumpkin weighed in at 1,405.5 pounds – the biggest the Oswego Great Pumpkin Fest has ever seen.

It blew past the 912.5-pounder that captured first place for Eric Gerry from 2006.

And, it edged out Dave Schafer’s 1,081.5-pound entry from 2005.

The previous top weight was 1,100 set six years ago, also set by Bobier.