The biggest, the heaviest and the ugliest – Frank Film tracks down the winners at the Little River Giant Pumpkin Festival.
They don't taste too good but they certainly pull the crowds.
Last month, despite drying hills and a dearth of tourists, around 3,000 people descended on Little River Wairewa to see a 230kg monster pumpkin grown by Max & Julianne Farrell take away the top prize in the annual Big Boy pumpkin competition.
“It took six of us to lift it on to the back of the track,” Max Farrell told Frank Film. “Five very strong men and me. But it is only my second time here, so I’m rapt.”
The Little River Giant Pumpkin Festival has grown almost as fast as the colossal produce tipped each Anzac Day on to the cattle scales. It began in the late 1990s, when two neighbours began to vie with each other to see who could grow the biggest pumpkin. News spread, more growers pitched in. “Friends heard about it so they extended it into Little River and turned it into a fundraiser for the school,” explains festival co-ordinator Mel Birch.
After missing out last year due to Covid, this year’s festival on 18 April attracted thousands of locals and out-of-town visitors, more than tripling the population of the small Banks Peninsula town in a little-bit-country parade of denim overalls, straw hats and facepaint. There was music, food, piggy back races, gumboot throwing, country stalls and sideshows – and everything beginning with “Pumpkin”.
Competition was fierce as growers from across the district competed for one of the 13 titles, including the Big Boy, the Local Big Boy (for pumpkins grown on the Peninsula) and the Wide Girl (for the widest circumference).
Best dressed pumpkin entries included a straw-toothed Leonard Cohen lookalike, a Very Hungry Caterpillar, a happy lion, a jack-o’-lantern, a Mr Nosey, a winning steam punk creation and an unassuming double-chinned winner of the Ugly Fugly competition.
The pumpkins themselves? Colossal, some needing 4-6 helpers to load them on to the back of the truck or trailer.
Producing a monster pumpkin, says grower Rebecca Hammond, winner of this year’s Local Big Boy category, is not for the faint-hearted. “It takes a lot of water, a lot of food, and ideally, a big growing season – there are a lot of variables in there.”
Giant vegetable competitions are growing in popularity – and proportion. In Australia this year New South Wales gardener Dale Oliver set a record for the biggest pumpkin in the southern hemisphere with his 867 kg Atlantic pumpkin, beating his previous record by more than 100 kg.
In October last year the UK announced its heaviest ever pumpkin weighing in at 1,176.5 kg. And still the world record for the heaviest pumpkin holds at 1,190.49 kg for an Atlantic giant grown by Belgian Mathias Willemijns in 2016.
Producer: Gerard Smyth
Director: Gaylene Barnes