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How big did your garden grow?

"POULSBO - With local temperatures warranting shorts and tank tops it was difficult to imagine that the first day of fall occurred last week. But the folks at Valley Nursery didn't miss a beat and said farewell to summer with their traditional celebration in Poulsbo on Sunday. Growth was the key feature of the 14th annual great pumpkin weigh-in, an event which has become an integral part of the Fall Festival. Blue skies graced the large crowds that flocked to the Bond Road location. Sights like the baby pygmy goats settling in buckets of hay, nervous llamas investigating sombreros and children giggling while trying to stay still enough to have their faces painted were typical. In the garden, Matthew Mitchell had four-year-old Bailey Watts' undivided attention as he read the Dr. Suess classic Yertle the Turtle from atop a hay bale. Behind the main homestead, the grounds were teaming with people who had come to see just how big local pumpkins had gotten since spring. Also adding to the fanfare were enormous tomatoes, innovative scarecrows, tall cornstalks and giant sunflowers. Smiles on visitors' faces as they listened to the tunes of the Country Capers and Kitsap Connection, however, seemed to dwarf the entries of the day, making the 2000 Fall Festival quite a success. It was very well attended this year, said a pleased Jeanne Martin of Valley Nursery. It seems to get better every year. For the past 14 years, the big draw have been the enormous orange and yellow squashes of the giant pumpkin weigh-in. The contest, according to Martin, actually begins during the spring when the nursery sells giant pumpkin starts and registers entrants for the growing contest. So what does a giant pumpkin need to grow anyway? Room and lots of steer manure, Martin recommended. Whether the Popp family agrees or not, the farmers certainly know their stuff about getting results out of the soil. Michael Popp, Jr. bested all entrants and his own pop with a mammoth 280.28- pound pumpkin that made everything else on display appear small by comparison. Not an easy feat, when one takes into account that Michael Popp, Sr. posted a pumpkin entry of 189.75 pounds. Howard Daniels took the third place spot with a 167-pounder. This year we also had two types of contests for sunflowers; for the tallest plant and the widest head, Martin said, noting that heads are measured from seed to seed. Popp, Sr. one-upped his son in the tallest sunflower event with a 12-foot-4-inch high plant and Mike Johnson had the widest entry with a 16-incher. Darren Murphy's 11-foot-9.75-inch-tall corn stalk was tops in its class while Sam Adams won the zucchini contest with a 14.25-pound titan. Michelle McCallum had the largest tomato on display, posting a 32.4-ounce entry of this misunderstood fruit. When asked whether it was pronounced tomato or to-mah-to, Martin laughed before replying, I guess it depends on what part of the country you're from. Well, even so, with lots of family fun, a petting zoo, marionettes, numerous educational booths and plenty of other activities - Valley Nursery just couldn't simply call the whole thing off. Another popular event we have is our scarecrow contest, Martin said, explaining that the nursery received a whole bunch of votes for that event. Jennifer and Chuck Silvernale took first prize with Sam and his scary read. Jane Rauvabaugh won her class for the most unique pumpkin and Vicky Lake amazed the crowd during the guess the weight of the giant pumpkin contest. A 307.5 pound Valley Nursery pumpkin was on display during the festival and, somehow, Lake ventured a guess of 306 pounds. There's a lot of emphasis on this being a fun event, Martin said. "

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