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October 5, 2013

A hometown winner

Topsfield grower's 1,746-pound gourd takes first at Topsfield Fair giant pumpkin weigh-off

TOPSFIELD — The Topsfield Fair crowned a hometown winner in last night’s giant pumpkin weigh-off: Woody Lancaster, who grew a 1,746.5-pound whopper in his Topsfield yard.

“It was just a special seed, a lot of hard work, and it just worked,” said Lancaster.

Last night was the first time Lancaster has earned the Topsfield Fair’s top prize. He’s been growing giant pumpkins for 15 years; he took second place last year with a 1,649-pounder.

Smiling, Lancaster admitted he was feeling “a little weak-kneed” once he found out he was the 2013 winner.

This year’s weigh-off drew just 28 entries this year, roughly half of an average year. Growers chalked it up to a hard season with erratic weather.

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“It was a very, very tough year,” said George Hoomis of Ipswich, whose pumpkin weighed in at 1,442.5 pounds — his personal best in 18 years of growing. “Most people are happy just to have something here (at the fair).”

Lancaster’s peach-colored gourd was the last of the night to be weighed. Once the official weight was announced, his wife, Cindy, son, Alan, and many of the other growers enveloped Lancaster in hugs, handshakes and claps on the back.

There is year-round camaraderie among members of the New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, who spend more than half the year coaxing tiny seeds into monstrous pumpkins.

They swap seeds, meet often and will call each other for growing advice, said Hoomis.

“We all compete, but we all help each other,” he said.

Pumpkins the size of boulders lined the Topsfield Fair arena last night, waiting to be lifted onto the scale by a forklift. Some of the gourds were picture-perfect, while others were misshapen. Their color ranged from pink to green, grey to all shades of orange.

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