ELKIN — The weather made it feel more like the Fourth of July than the first day of fall, but that didn’t stop festival-goers from enjoying the annual Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in Elkin.
“It’s many more people this year than last year,” said Luann Hall.
Hall and her classmates from the Starmount High School Class of 1970 had a booth at the festival for the second year in a row selling their cookbook, “Ramalicious.” Hall said in addition to selling their cookbooks, they enjoyed hearing from people who already had a copy and stopped by their booth to tell them how much they love it.
“That means so much,” Hall said.
Other vendors at the festival had a variety of clothing, handmade items and more for sale. A booth selling all manner of puppets was a popular one with children.
Two local Girl Scouts, Grace Harrison and Raven Poindexter, also took part in the event with a booth selling used books to benefit their Silver Award project. The two are raising money to purchase hiking poles and other items which will be available to check out at the Elkin Public Library to be used on the nature trail.
Plenty of tasty food was on the menu at downtown restaurants and vendor booths on Main Street.
Watermelons, bushel gourds, and, of course, pumpkins a plenty were on display in front of the Heritage Center. The winning pumpkin weighed in at a whopping 1,583.5 pounds. That would make a lot of pumpkin spice lattes.
Unfortunately, said Elijah Meck, while the giant pumpkins are a marvel to behold, they don’t make for good eating. Meck is the newly-elected representative for the southern region in the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the governing body for official weigh-off events of giant vegetables.
“When you think about the fact that a pumpkin can be putting on 30 to 50 pounds a day, it’s all water weight, and when you have that much water going into a fruit, you dilute the sugars,” Meck said.
Despite the fact that the giant fruit cannot be turned into sweet treats, winner of the pumpkin weigh-off, Robert Cyrus, said the huge pumpkin brought a lot of joy to his four grandchildren. Cyrus, who hails from West Virginia, said his grandchildren helped him to plant the seed. His 2-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter had a particular fondness for the pumpkin.
“When it got big enough to hug, she hugged and kissed it,” Cyrus said. He attributed this extra love and attention as the secret to growing the winning pumpkin at this year’s festival.
Meck said he was proud of this year’s event and how growers had persevered through poor growing conditions this season.
“I was surprised that we had as many fruit as we did given the weather this year,” Meck said. “I was very pleased to see the fruit here. Glad that we got some fruit coming from other regions. We had a very good weigh-off. We broke a state record for West Virginia. We had a world record bushel gourd, so all in all, I was very pleased with what we had this year.”
The world record bushel gourd weighed in at 333.7 pounds and was grown by Dustin Price.
John Wayne Brooks of Ronda said he’s been growing giant vegetables for around 10 years. He’s grown a pumpkin around 900 pounds. This year, he had problems with his vine, but that didn’t stop him from bringing his giant pumpkin to the event.
“I just enjoy growing giant vegetables,” Brooks said. He grows giant watermelons as well.
“Each grower grows for different reasons, but I think it’s the fascination with how these things grow,” Meck said of why farmers have such a passion for pumpkins. “You can literally watch them grow when they’re at their peak, and the quest, in general, is always to grow something really big. Just striving towards bigger and bigger is what keeps people interested and keeps people going.”
The mega-sized fruits were a popular spot for photos for festival-goers.
“I think it’s amazing,” said Alaina Wright after she and her husband took a picture with the pumpkins. She is a travel nurse and her husband a travel physical therapist, both working in Elkin. “The community definitely come all together. We’ve never seen anything this big yet. We really like it.”
Misty Matthews of the Yadkin Valley Chamber of Commerce said it was a great day and the streets were packed, despite the blazing heat.
“We have plans to make it even better in 2019,” she said. The Chamber is gearing up now for its next big event, the Big Elkin Brewfest on Oct. 27.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-518-3049 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.