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In Search Of The Great Pumpkin

Pumpkin mania is in full swing, and if you'd care to dive in, there are plenty of choices: monster vegetables tipping the scales at well over 1,000 pounds; an over 2,000-pound pie; or, strangest of all, hollowed-out pumpkin boats.

Martha Stewart had been planning to ride in and row one of those, and despite finally convincing Canada to let her cross the border – she'd been unwelcome because of her criminal record - her oar never did touch the water in Windsor, Nova Scotia.

Heavy rain grounded Stewart's plane in Maine Sunday, and a producer who'd flown ahead to pave the way for Stewart wound up wielding the oars on a 660-pound pumpkin painted in stripes of pastel blue, orange, yellow and green.

Unfazed, the town is already turning its attention to next year – asking Stewart to mark her calendar to be sure and show up to row her own in the 2006 Pumpkin Regatta across Lake Pesaquid.

As for the Great Pumpkin – there are more than a few.

Monday in Warren, Rhode Island, a welder captured the title of biggest pumpkin with an entry weighing 1,443 pounds.

Scott Palmer took top honors at the 12th annual Rhode Island Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Championship, held at Frerichs Farm. The world record is a 1,446-pound pumpkin grown last year by Al Eaton, of Ontario, Canada, according to the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

"Best day of my life. I got my family here, helped me grow it all year, what else is there to say?" said Palmer, who took home $3,500 as the victor.

In Half Moon Bay, Calif., Monday, a retired Washington firefighter won the annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, presenting a gigantic pumpkin that weighed 1,229 pounds.

Joel Holland said the pumpkin could make roughly 600 pumpkin pies but instead will be displayed in a parade in Half Moon Bay this coming weekend, then carved into a jack-o'-lantern for Halloween.

The 56-year-old pumpkin king has won the competition five years in a row. He won last year with a pumpkin that weighed exactly the same amount.

Holland said he worried when the contest began because another pumpkin was bigger dimensionally than his 3-foot, 9-inch high entry, which had to be removed from his pickup truck by means of a crane.

He attributed his success to two decades of pumpkin growing experience and the favorable climate at his Puyallup, Wash., home. The Atlantic Giant was hand-pollinated and grew from July to October.

Contenders beware: Holland plans to use the seeds from this year's giant to spawn another behemoth.

"Maybe we'll set a record for the size of a pumpkin pie next," said Holland.

That title might not be so easy to capture.

According to the Guiness World Book of Records, the new record was set Saturday by the bakers of a 2,020-pound pie which was cut up and distributed among spectators in New Bremen, Ohio.

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