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Pumpkins, squash enthrall crowds

Jim Engstrom and Bob Wilson struggle to lift a 130-pound pumpkin onto the scales in Coupeville Saturday. But this was small potatoes compare to the 472-pounder grown by Lee Roof, in the center.  - Jim Larsen
Jim Engstrom and Bob Wilson struggle to lift a 130-pound pumpkin onto the scales in Coupeville Saturday. But this was small potatoes compare to the 472-pounder grown by Lee Roof, in the center.
— image credit: Jim Larsen

The biggest pumpkin and farthest-flung squash dominated thoughts in Coupeville this week, at least for those not more concerned about town planning and other such transient issues.

Saturday was dedicated to pumpkins, as is who could grow the biggest one? For months, farmers and hobbyists babied their growing pumpkins, nursing them into fat, globulous adulthood, in preparation for the seventh annual Giant Pumpkin Contest, part of HarvestFest.

Thanks to a forklift loaned by Lumbermen’s, the pumpkins were lined up outside the high school like squat, legless Sumo wrestlers. Jim Cavanaugh, as is tradition, lent his scales to the occasion, while Jim Engstrom and Bob Wilson headed the team that placed the pumpkins on the scale. Lee Roof, one of the contest founders, supervised and lent a hand when needed. The little 100-pounders they could handle themselves, but it took up to six men to push the contenders onto the scales.

A good-sized crowd oohed and aahed at the pumpkins and cheered when Jochen Dwersted read out the official poundage. Neal Amtman’s 210-pounder won third place, but was dwarfed by Robert Ezell’s 410-pounder, good enough for second place.

Top prize went to Lee Roof, who won his first contest after years of trying with a 472-pounder. it didn’t look a lot bigger than Ezell’s, but that’s one of the variables that make the event so interesting. “You never can tell how dense they are,” said Sandy Shields, one of the organizers.

Sunday, the town’s attention turned to squash, particularly the squash toss that took place at Dale and Liz Sherman’s farm, using the trebuchet built especially for the occasion by Gary Leake. The catapult-like device was a fund-raiser for the Chamber of Commerce, and a fun time for people from near and far.

On Tuesday, Leake estimated he fired off 70 squash. Contestants paid on a variable scale, depending on whether they wanted a sweet roll or piece of pie with their squash-tossing effort. The Shermans had a bin of squash available, like cannonballs waiting to be fired at the enemy.

Longest toss honors went to Mel Olson, whose squash traveled an estimate 214 feet. There was plenty of excitement, according to Leake. “One went literally straight up, and another went backward,” he said. “And it was quite a mess out in the field,” due to splattered squash. A second trebuchet was brought over from Port Townsend to help with the contest.

Leak expects the squash toss will become an annual event at HarvestFest. “it was definitely a draw, it wasn’t just the locals showing up,” he said. “We’re already talking about next year.”

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