Heading into eighth year, Saratoga Giant PumpkinFest has become a pretty big deal – Fall Festivities

The top three winners of 2022 Saratoga Giant Pumpkinfest. Photo Courtesy of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce

The top three winners of 2022 Saratoga Giant Pumpkinfest. Photo Courtesy of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce

Article Audio:

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Edinburg resident Wayne Seelow began growing giant pumpkins about 13 or 14 years ago after his friend Todd Brownell introduced him to the hobby.

Now, Seelow enters pumpkins each year in the Saratoga Giant PumpkinFest, which is set to take place Sept. 23 at the Saratoga Springs City Center parking garage. 

From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., people will be able to view the giant pumpkins that will be weighed at the eighth annual event; partake in various activities; and enjoy food and drinks from vendors. The event is held in collaboration with the city’s farmers’ market as well, according to Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce. 

“This is always a big boost for them because the folks that come to our event take part in all that they have going,” Shimkus said. 

Shimkus said the PumpkinFest itself is meant to drive people downtown during the fall and bring many people from across New York and neighboring states to the area. 

He said farmers from Vermont, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and other nearby states have competed in the festival.

The biggest draw for eventgoers is watching the pumpkins get weighed — a process that can take four to five hours and which will begin at 11 a.m. this year. 

“We literally have to move them around with forklifts and the pumpkin is lifted above the scale and there are folks that are appointed to inspect underneath and all around to make sure somebody hasn’t put some kind of a weight into it or something else, [and] that it’s not damaged,” Shimkus said.

In order to weigh the pumpkins a company certified by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth must be hired. Any weighed pumpkin cannot compete in other events. 

Shimkus said the growers get points based on the weight of the pumpkin.

Seelow said the average pumpkin now weighs in at anywhere from 1,800 to 2,000 pounds. His heaviest was nearly 1,500 pounds. 

Shimkus said there is roughly $8,000 in prize money distributed via the various competitions. One of the categories is prettiest pumpkin, which Seelow has won in the past. 

To grow his pumpkins, Seelow begins the process in late April in his greenhouse. By the first or second week of May, he’s placing the plant in the ground to keep growing over the next several months.  

“The hardest part is the weather,” Seelow said. “You can’t predict it. This year has been horrible because of the rain.” 

Due to the weather, Seelow said he has two pumpkins left. In late August he was deciding which one to bring to the Saratoga Springs festival and which one to take to a different festival in Vermont. 

Seelow said cross-pollination of seeds is used to try and attain bigger and heavier pumpkins each year. 

“It’s pretty neat,” Seelow said. “If you get one growing, they’ll grow 60 to 70 pounds a day.”

But pumpkins aren’t the only thing weighed at the competition, Seelow said. He noted that there are giant bushel gourds, watermelons, tomatoes and squash as well.

He said the average giant tomato is weighing in at around four pounds and watermelons are weighing in at 200 pounds. 

Some of the pumpkins are sold after the competition, with giant pumpkins raking in roughly $2 per pound, Seelow said. Shimkus said he knows of a man who will buy the top two or three heaviest pumpkins, if he can, then turn around and sell them in New York City for display windows. 

But the best part is seeing people’s reactions to how large the pumpkins are, Seelow said.

Shimkus said he loves seeing the farmers’ reactions when they’re announced as the winners.

“The surprise on their face, the excitement on their face when they see how big it is, how heavy it is — you have to see that,” Shimkus said.

Reporter Shenandoah Briere can be reached at [email protected]

Saratoga Giant PumpkinFest

WHEN: 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23

WHERE: Saratoga Springs City Center Parking Garage

MORE INFO: saratoga.org

Categories: Fall Festivities 2023, Life and Arts, Saratoga Springs

Leave a Reply