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Giant pumpkins tip the scales at Valley Sunday

POULSBO — Valley Nursery’s homegrown harvest celebration turns 18 this year.

And to celebrate, it’s going back to its roots.

After trying some new competitions in years past, organizers have decided to return to what made the family-friendly event a success in the first place — produce of phenomenal sizes.

The 18th annual Fall Harvest Festival will take place Sept. 26 at the nursery off Bond Road. Valley opens at 9 a.m. but activities won’t get into full swing until about 11 a.m. when the four-piece blues/swing band tunes up. There will be free popcorn and apple cider, as well as a hot dog vendor on site for those with an appetite. Kids of all ages can get their faces or fingernails painted by an artist who was a popular fixture at last year’s event.

But what folks really come to see are the giant pumpkins. Grown from starts sold at Valley each spring, some of the gargantuan gourds have come in at between 200-300 pounds. Though none yet have reached the same level as the 958-pound record breaker at the Puyallup Fair this year, they’re still a sight to behold.

Last year, prizes were given for the top three giant pumpkins. In returning to the old ways, Valley will be rewarding the top 10 entries. Another notable difference this year will be the absence of a very big competition. Valley spokesperson Paula Anderson said Mike Popp Sr. and Jr. have decided not to enter the giant pumpkin contest this year.

The two have been powerhouses at the annual weigh-in. Last year, Mike Popp Sr. took top prize with a 262.51-pounder. In 2002, Michael Popp Jr. won with a 214-pound entry, just nudging out his father’s 211.5-pounder. The two will be on hand Sunday but plan to only enter the other competitions.

“They decided they wanted to give somebody else a chance,” Anderson commented.

Giant pumpkin entries should be turned in no later than noon Sunday. The top 10 growers will receive prizes. The grand prize is a $150 gift certificate to Valley.

Besides giant pumpkins, the event will also pit several categories of homegrown produce against each other. Any local gardener can enter the following competitions:

• Tallest corn stalk

• Heaviest corn on the cob

• Tallest sunflower

• Biggest sunflower head

• Heaviest beet

• Heaviest radish

• Heaviest carrot

• Heaviest potato

• Heaviest bell pepper

• Heaviest tomato

• Most cherry tomatoes on one cluster

• Longest cucumber

• Heaviest zucchini

Though there can be only one winner in each category, Anderson said that every vegetable contest competitor will be entered into a drawing for one of three door prizes. She said the extra prizes are a way of hopefully getting as many local gardeners as possible to try out.

“When they show up, they might see right away that their produce is not the biggest one there,” Anderson commented. “But this way, they all have a chance at a prize.”

For those without green thumbs, there’s also the “guess the weight” competition, Valley owner Brad Watts’ father always grows a giant pumpkin that’s put on display during the harvest festival. The person to guess the weight of that pumpkin will win a $50 Valley gift certificate.

Sidebox:

Valley Nursery Fall Harvest Festival

Sept. 26 Valley Nursery, 20882 Bond Road NE

Live music 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., judging begins at 1 p.m., awards ceremony at 1:30 p.m.

Information: (360) 779-3806 or www.valleynurseryinc.com

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