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September 19, 2018

Growing Great Pumpkins Is A Labor of Love


OSWEGO, NY – 2013 Oswego Great Pumpkin champion Andy Wolf says growing award-winning pumpkins takes a lot of hard work – with some good luck mixed in.

Andy Wolf poses with his winning 1,461.5-pound pumpkin.

Andy Wolf poses with his winning 1,461.5-pound pumpkin.

“Mother Nature can be very fickle,” the Little Valley resident said.

Little Valley is about an hour directly south of Buffalo, Wolf said, adding, “It’s about a three and a half-hour drive to get here.”

The trip was well worth it this weekend as his 1,461.5-pound entry took home the top prize of $2,000.

“It’s a lot of practice; I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years now. It’s a lot of hard work,” he told Oswego County Today. “It takes lots of manure, lots of water and yes, a little bit of luck. That plays a big part. I had one last year that was 1,640 pounds on Aug. 26 and it was still growing pretty good. And it split. You win some, you loose some.”

Fellow grower Gary Adams agrees with that.

Gary Adams prepares to unload the "team pumpkin" he and his wife, Kathy, grew for the Oswego competition.

Gary Adams prepares to unload the “team pumpkin” he and his wife, Kathy, grew for the Oswego competition.

“I did my plants in May. It’s like three weeks behind. I had a real big one I packed up for Cooperstown and a mouse ate a hole in the bottom,” he said. “It was a huge, huge pumpkin. I got it loaded it on. And my wife goes, ‘What did you do drop it?’ I said, ‘No worse than that – a mouse ate it!’”

He and his wife, Kathy, had multiple entries in the Oswego event.

She entered her favorite pumpkin separately in exhibition. It weighed 790.0 pounds.

“I’ll take that. That’s good,” she said. “I love this pumpkin. I can’t wait to grow the seeds from it next year!”

Austin Wilkes poses with his huge watermelon.

Austin Wilkes poses with his huge watermelon.

Their “team pumpkin” weighed in at 1,036.5 pounds, good enough for eighth place overall.

“During the winter time, we’ll take the seeds out of these and we’ll mail them back and forth to all the other pumpkin growers. We’ll give them to the clubs to sell for fundraisers. It’s pretty much a year-round thing,” Wolf added. “There’s more seeds in one of these than I could grow in a lifetime, probably about 400 or so on average. We just give them away. If new growers ask, we give them away, try to encourage them, get them into the hobby, that type of thing.”

Katelyn Wilkes had the top pumpkin in the family, weighing in at 401.5 pounds.

Katelyn Wilkes had the top pumpkin in the family, weighing in at 401.5 pounds.

“It’s a labor of love,” said 2006 champion Eric Gerry. “You get out there and do it because you really want to, you enjoy the work. You want to see just how big a pumpkin you can grow.”

His best entry this year weighed in at 478.0 pounds.

Austin Wilkes, 7, was one of the youngest competitors this year.

He grew a 130-pound watermelon. In 2012, he placed second with a 108-pounder.

He finished second again this year, coming in behind Wolf’s 158.0-pound watermelon.

Great pumpkins can also make great seats.

Great pumpkins can also make great seats.

“I dug the hole, used a lot of cow manure and then planted the seed,” Austin said. “Then it took a lot of water. I grew it from seeds from last year’s watermelon.”

He also entered a pumpkin.

“I hope it’s maybe 400 pounds. It’s not as big everybody else’s’,” he said.

When it was weighed, it came in at 282.0 pounds.

Katelyn Wilkes’ pumpkin was 401.5 pounds.

Asked if she received any pointers from Austin, she replied, “No! I did it all on my own.”

Marv Kaminsky, MC for Pumpkin Fest 2013, asks the crowd which of the finals pumpkins to be weighed will come out on top. Many in the crowd picked the winner.

Marv Kaminsky, MC for Pumpkin Fest 2013, asks the crowd which of the finals pumpkins to be weighed will come out on top. Many in the crowd picked the winner.

Marv Kaminsky, adjunct instructor of broadcasting at SUNY Oswego, served as the MC for Saturday’s weighing ceremony.

At one point he gushed over the rich orange color of one of the pumpkin entries.

“That’s such an attractive color. And, it matches Connie’s vest,” he said referring to Connie Cosemento, the event coordinator.

“Is that your color commentary?” someone in the crowd asked.

Oswego’s is the second contest Wolf has won this year.

“I had one 1,480 a couple weeks ago. Took it down to a contest just outside Scranton, Pa. I’ve had six pumpkins in the 1,400 pounds now. Guess I’m kind of getting into a groove,” he said.

Great pumpkins have been getting ‘greater’ very quickly, he pointed out.

Billie Crandall Brady, Oswego County Traffic Safety Coordinator, helps a youngster at her booth learn about good safety habits.

Billie Crandall Brady, Oswego County Traffic Safety Coordinator, helps a youngster at her booth learn about good safety habits.

“When I first had my big one, it was 1,407 back then, that was 2005, that was number three in the world. And now the world has kind of passed me by. The record is 2009 pounds. It’s getting tougher to compete every year,” the Oswego champion said.

Kevin Mildenburger hauls in all the way from Canandaigua with the Fairbanks Scale out of Buffalo to oversee the certified weights.

2013 Pumpkinfest Results
Top 10 Pumpkins:
1.    1,461.5 – Andy Wolf of Little Valley, NY
2.    1,264.0 – Karl Haist    of Clarence Center, NY
3.    1,229.0 – Jeff Alberts of Memphis, NY
4.    1,213.5 – William Bobier of Windsor, NY
5.    1,208.5 – Brian Kibler of Mount Morris, NY
6.    1,101.5 – Walter Merriam of Fayetteville, NY
7.    1,099.5 – Todd Brownell of Northville, NY
8.    1,036.5 – Kathy and Gary Adams of LaFayette, NY
9.    1,014.0 – Joe Pukos of Leicester, NY
10.    883.5 – Jamie Mullen of Leicester, NY

Some of the helpers at this year's festival included: Rachel Wills on the left and the twins, Brianna and Ashley Santmeyer and Kevin Mildenburger wih Fairbanks Scale at right. Taking notes in the foreground is Connie Cosemento. Joe DeSilva was the helper with Steve Westcott moving the pumpkins to the scales.

Some of the helpers at this year’s festival included: Rachel Wills on the left and the twins, Brianna and Ashley Santmeyer and Kevin Mildenburger wih Fairbanks Scale at right. Taking notes in the foreground is Connie Cosemento. Joe DeSilva was the helper with Steve Westcott moving the pumpkins to the scales.

Squash:
1. 874.5 – Brian Staring of Waterville, NY
2. 579.5 – Karl Haist of Clarence Center, NY

Watermelon:
1. 158.5 – Andy Wolf of Little Valley, NY
2. 130.0 – Austin Wilkes of Phelps, NY
3. 69.0 – Brian Kibler of Mount Morris, NY

Field Pumpkins:
1. 124.0 – Steve Westcott of Oswego, NY
2. 110.0 – Eric Gerry of LaFayette, NY
3. 105.0 – Steve Westcott of Oswego, NY
4. 100.0 – Jeff Podraza of West Seneca, NY
5. 57.0 – Gary Adams of LaFayette, NY
DMG – 120.0 – Steve Westcott of Oswego, NY

Tomatoes:
1. 3.59 – Steve Westcott of Oswego, NY
2. 2.85 – Kathy Adams of LaFayette, NY
3. 2.52 – Brian Kibler of Mount Morris, NY
DMG – 2.72 – Kathy Adams of LaFayette, NY
4. 0.97 – Ed McMahon of Oswego, NY
5. 0.83 – Kathy Adams of LaFayette, NY

Longest Gourd:
1. Steve Westcott of Oswego, NY

Special Categories:
Farthest away grower: Andy Wolf
Entrant Drawing: Jeff Podraza – Roto-tiller from Raby’s Ace Hardware
Howard Dill Award:    Brian Kibler (Prettiest, Orange, more than 800 pounds)
Heaviest Pumpkin to chart:    Karl Haist – Andy Wolf
Drawing more than 1,000: Karl Haist
Drawing less than 1,000: Joe Sanford

                                                    PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS

The festival also featured many activities and rides for children.

The festival also featured many activities and rides for children.

2012 – 1,598.0 pounds grown by Quinn Wener of Saegertown, Pa.

2011 – 1,268.0 pounds grown by Alan Nesbitt of Conesus, NY

2010 – 1,83.0 pounds grown by Matt VerSchneider of Freeville, NY

2009 – 1,229.5 pounds grown by Alan Nessbitt of Conesus, NY

2008 – 1,219.5 pounds grown by Joe Pukos of Leicester, NY

2007 – 1,405.5 pounds grown by Bill Bobier of Windsor, NY

2006 – 912.5 pounds grown by Eric Gerry of LaFayette, NY

2005 – 1,081.5 pounds grown by Dave Schaefer of Chestertown

The festival was sponsored by: Oswego County Federal Credit Union, Pathfinder Bank and the city of Oswego.

For more information, visit www.oswegofultonchamber.com/pumpkinfest  or [email protected]

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