Nova Scotia

Windsor pumpkin regatta cancelled after poor growing season

Organizers of the annual pumpkin festival in Windsor, N.S., are working on a "Plan P" after cancelling the regatta.

'Plan P' to be announced later in the week, organizer says

Participants in the 20th annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival regatta paddle giant pumpkins on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, N.S., Oct. 14, 2018. Racers hollow out the massive gourds and pilot them across the 800-metre course. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Organizers of the Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival have cancelled its 21st annual pumpkin regatta, an event that transforms the giant gourds into personal vegetable crafts that are then raced on Lake Pisiquid.

The festival is still scheduled to go ahead on Oct. 19, and organizers are trying to figure out an alternative plan for the race.

"Plan P is in the works, Plan Pumpkin," said VanEssa Roberts, who does logistics for the Nova Scotia festival.

The reason the festival decided to cancel the regatta is because there aren't enough giant pumpkins suitable for racing this year.

Danny Dill, owner of the Dill Family Farm, the main supplier of the giant pumpkins, said he needed at least 60 giant pumpkins for the regatta.

"It's sad, very sad. It's almost like you take a Christmas tree grower — everybody loves Christmas — and he spends his whole year getting his trees ready for Christmas and then a lot of his trees, just all of a sudden a month before, get wiped out," Dill said.

Danny Dill, owner of the Dill Family Farm, in a 2015 photo. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

He said three things contributed to a poor crop this year: a late start to the growing year with May and June being very wet and cold, a hot and dry July and August, and Hurricane Dorian damaging vines and leaves that provide nutrients to the gourds.

"My giant pumpkins right now are probably only half the size that they should be ... I just knew after Dorian they weren't going to make it," Dill said.

He said this is the first year he can recall the regatta being cancelled. He said when the event first started, there were only five pumpkins involved.

"I know I've got to supply for the sponsors and I know all my regular competitors, and I said this is just going to be a nightmare that I think if I only have 20 or 30, I just can't satisfy everybody," he said.

Dr. Kier Stewart, a Halifax cardiac surgeon, displays his technique as he races his giant pumpkin in the 19th annual Windsor-West Hants Pumpkin Festival regatta on Lake Pisiquid in Windsor, N.S., on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The town and the community are disappointed, Dill said, but he's hopeful about Plan P.

While all the details are still being ironed out, he knows one thing — there will be pumpkins in the water.

"Farmers are strong and thick skinned and we continue on, we've got to make the best of it," he said.

"The great pumpkin will rise again and we will get through it."

Robertson said the festival will raise awareness of crop growers who have had a difficult year and will be kind of like a Farm Aid event.

"This is all still a work in progress, nothing is finalized yet," she said.

The annual giant pumpkin weigh-off, scheduled for Oct. 5, will still go ahead as planned.

Difficult year for growing pumpkins

Dill said this year has also been a difficult growing year for regular pumpkins.

"You might go in and find the odd one that's ready, that's orange," he said. "Most of them are green, they're small, they're not ready, we won't know if they will make it by October."

He grows thousands of pumpkins in 70 to 80 different varieties. He said he's been calling other growers in other provinces to order pumpkins he can sell at the farm this year.

"The last two years have been rough for farmers and I just hope we're at the bottom of the cycle and it starts coming the other way again," he said.

About the Author

Anjuli Patil

Reporter

Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.

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