PLAINVILLE — A record-breaking pumpkin and its smaller sibling will be the centerpieces of this year’s Plainville Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.
Grown by Plainville resident Gary Vincent, the gourds together weigh more than a midsize sedan and will stand next to the library and Town Hall for residents to admire and pose with during the festival.
The larger of the two came in second at the Topsfield Fair’s annual weigh-off in Massachusetts at 2,169.5 pounds, behind a 2,294.50 pumpkin grown by Alex Noel, of Pomfret. Both broke the record Vincent set for Connecticut in 2015 with a 1,992.50 pound pumpkin, as recorded by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a worldwide competitive gourd growing association.
Though he may have come in second, Vincent is still excited to have broken his old record and finally reached his goal of growing a pumpkin over 2,000 pounds. A few of his pumpkins since 2015 have come close — and may have even broken that threshold — but either split or began rotting before they could be trucked to Topsfield for weighing.
“If you can grow a pumpkin over 2,000 (pounds), everyone will tell you you’re at the top,” he said.
Kris Dargenio, organizer of the pumpkin festival, said Vincent’s pumpkins have been a focal point of the event since it started in 2015, except last year when a bad season destroyed six of the eight pumpkins he had planted. Families gather around it for photos, often with their children climbing on top.
Aside from having the largest pumpkin ever shown at the festival, having two to pose with will be a special way to mark its fifth year. The festival will also be celebrating the occasion with an increased selection of food trucks, 15 in total, almost 50 vendors, two inflatable bounce houses and a pirate trailer — similar to a walk-through fun house.
The fair will take place on East and West Main Street between Pierce Street and Neal Court and a few blocks south on Whiting Street and will run from 4 to 8 p.m. A parade for children wearing Halloween costumes will march from the Recreation Department on Whiting Street to the library starting at 4:45 p.m.
Before the first pumpkins were even carved for the festival’s Pumpkin Wall, Vincent was back in his fields preparing for next year’s crop, pulling weeds, putting down lime and planting winter rye to rejuvenate the soil.
Now that he’s reached his goal he doesn’t plan to plant a full eight pumpkins, which took four to six hours a day to care for — between the watering, placing fertilizer, pruning vines and the myriad of other tasks each pumpkin requires. Even with all the work, the loss rate on pumpkins of this size is high. Many end up splitting or spoiling before they make it to the scale.
“There’s a lot of disappointment in the hobby because of how many you lose,” Vincent said.
Nonetheless it remains a hobby he enjoys. He grew up gardening with his father in their backyard but when his wife brought home a few Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds from a fair in 1981 he was immediately hooked.
“To me to look at a seed and look at what it can develop into is a miracle,” he said.