Giant Pumpkin Festival returns to Sault Ste. Marie

Sault Ste. Marie's Giant Pumpkin Festival made its return Saturday. A scaled-down version of the Thanksgiving tradition brought a small, but enthusiastic, crowd to the Robert Bondar Pavilion downtown.

One by one, contestants taking part in the Giant Pumpkin Festival competition brought in their entries to be weighed. In the end, Sault Ste. Marie's Kieran O'Neill came out the big winner with a 770-pound pumpkin.

"Well, it's a lot of water and a lot of fertilizer," said O'Neill. "There is some technique to it. You have to start it early, you've got to greenhouse it, you've got to set the pumpkin by hand, and you've got to make sure you fertilize it and water it and watch the weather as it goes. And a lot comes down to luck."

O'Neill said you don't need a giant property to grow a giant pumpkin – he grew his in the backyard.

"It's a little lot in the middle of the city, so this is a suburban pumpkin," he said. "This was grown in the City of Sault Ste. Marie. So it is possible to grow them this big."

Jeff Marshall, organizer of the festival, said like most events in the last year, this one had to be downsized due to public health restrictions.

"Oh, we would have storytime, restaurants would have a taste-off, so all that sort of stuff had to go by the wayside this year," said Marshall, who hopes the full event will return next year.

As for O'Neill, he has plans for his prize-winning pumpkin.

"We're actually going to carve it tomorrow into a giant Jack-o-Lantern, and we're going to stand it up on its end and we'll put lights in it," said O'Neill. "People can enjoy it as they drive by."

O'Neill says his 77- pound pumpkin is not the largest he's grown. He said he grew a 1,100-pound pumpkin one season – and he plans on breaking that record next year.