Island pumpkins take top two

POULSBO — Bainbridge Island has long been known for its strawberries.

Perhaps now, it will also be known for its pumpkins.

In a giant pumpkin competition sans the Popp family this year, a 223.5-pound gourd grown by the gang at the Bloedel Reserve took top honors at Valley Nursery’s Fall Festival Sept. 26. Andy Navage of Poulsbo, who brought in the blue ribbon winner, said he had high hopes for the orange beauty but felt a little shaky showing up Sunday.

“At the beginning of the year, I thought it was going to win but it stopped growing about a month ago,” he commented.

This is the 18th year that Valley has sponsored the homegrown event, featuring live music, refreshments and competition for produce of many kinds. The biggest draw is definitely the giant pumpkin weigh-in, which pits squash grown from starts sold at Valley in the spring against one another. The top 10 finishers received prizes.

Second place this year also went to Bainbridge as Island resident Darren Murphy turned in a 206.25-pounder. But young Michael Weidenheimer, 9, of Kingston showed that the competition is open to anyone with a green thumb as he took up the third place spot with a 203.75-pound gourd. The Weidenheimer family has been buying the giant pumpkin starts at Valley for about six years but this was the first time one of their plants had produced a behemoth pumpkin. Michael said the secret was keeping one special pumpkin on the vine.

“Every time there was a small pumpkin, we’d cut it off and keep this one growing,” he said.

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