We entered the pumpkin madness zone this past weekend. The Great Pumpkin Carnival was on on Sunday and there was much preparation to be done on Saturday. I looked over all my pumpkins and made final selections about which ones to enter into which categories. Then they needed to be carefully cleaned, quickly photographed and placed into suitable transportation boxes, in which they wouldn’t get bumped around. The Husband made his Pumpkin Racer in the afternoon, as you can’t do them too much in advance. But the biggest chunk of the day was taken up by baking.
If you read my last blog post, you’ll know that I was coming into the pumpkin baking arena very unprepared. I did a trial batch of pumpkin scones on Friday night. They were good, with just a minor adjustment needed. I did a trial small cake on Saturday. I was stoked with it. “This is going to be awesome!”, I thought to myself. Then came the proper-sized, two-layered cake. The two cakes didn’t rise as much as they should have. I was not happy. I made another cake. This time I tried to make one cake, too high, and it didn’t cook evenly. I was just about spurting fire. I was NOT going to do another one. I was making almond butter. I was making my batch of scones. I was making icing. I was trying to maintain a small semblance of being useful to my family. I was trying to stop The Husband from poking everything. I was re-directing the idle male members of the household to a Crown pumpkin that could be carved for fun. The Husband was printing out a ‘paint job’ for the Pumpkin Racer. There was some kind of dinner. I was running out of ingredients!
I stuck with the two-layer cake and iced it. I had come too far to give up now. I didn’t think it was a prize-winning cake but too bad! That cake was going to make it to the carnival. It was a bit of a late night after plating things up and fluffing around with the pumpkins. On Sunday morning, I finished decorating the cake. Then we had to get all the pumpkins, baking, Pumpkin Racer, small child and lunch into the car. And the giant pumpkins. The Husband took it upon himself to get the biggest giant pumpkin from out the front into the car. When I came around the back of the car I found it, having been strollered into the boot, sporting some small gouges and several pieces of gravel. The Husband had dropped it. I just about died.
I scolded The Husband, “It might not be eligible to enter now!” I probably sounded like a crazy person. We were in a hurry to get going so we could get all the entries registered. It seemed to completely slip my mind that this pumpkin was unlikely win a prize anyway, so it didn’t really matter. We must remember that my biggest one collapsed a few weeks ago after its stem injury and this one in the boot probably wasn’t as big as last year’s one. And it had been a good, hot summer for everyone else’s pumpkin growing. After huffing and spouting about the giant pumpkin I announced, “We need to get the other one in the car!” The first giant pumpkin and The Little Fulla’s stroller were taking up all the boot space so I had to re-pack the things on the back seat and the floor. I rolled the second giant pumpkin across the grass, then we both carried it and plonked it on the back seat. Right. Everything was now in the car. “Wait, the cake!” I almost left the jolly cake behind. Ok, now everything was in the car, we were off, and we were officially nuts.
We got an extremely fortunate parking space close the the entrance. That was important, because we had a few trips to do back and forth from the car. First, we did some of the small pumpkins and the baking. Then, it was the rest of the small pumpkins and the Pumpkin Racer. Then, I checked out the giant pumpkin entries and decided whether to bring out my giant pumpkin or not. It was not going to get a prize. Too bad! I had grown this giant pumpkin, we had brought it all the way there and it was going to make an appearance. After all, it’s not just about winning, it’s about having fun. And apparently making a grand entrance.
We put the giant pumpkin in the stroller. Most of the giant pumpkins were driven in, but why do that and lose our parking spot when the pumpkin was light enough to get in and out of the stroller? The only trouble was, the pumpkin had to be held in there so it didn’t make another leap for freedom. And so, the procession began. The Husband pushed the stroller and I steadied the pumpkin with one hand while holding The Little Fulla’s hand in my other hand. We entered the weigh-in lane, with cars in front and behind us and people lined up along the taped sidelines. A queue of cars interrupted by the sight of a family with a giant pumpkin in a stroller. We kind of made a name for ourselves. We were that family. People took photos. Oh yes, we are nuts.
At first I was kind of embarrassed, because a pumpkin of that size didn’t really deserve such a grand entrance. But then, it just became hilarious. Suddenly, the stress of all the preparations disappeared and this whole pumpkin fiasco was hilarious and exciting. We were in the giant pumpkin zone. We got the pumpkin weighed – 37kg – piddly, less than last year’s 42kg one that I didn’t even take to the carnival – but I didn’t care. I had done it! The Little Fulla and I got a photo taken of us with the pumpkin on the scales and then we got to be in the select group of people who could look at the giant pumpkins up close while the competition was running. We were in the arena when the prestigious Pumpking arrived. He had a long tandem trailer with two GIANT PUMPKINS on it, one grown by him and one by his son. There was also another pumpkin in the elite Heaviest Pumpkin Over 200kg category.
Then we got a good spot on the sideline near the scales from which to eat lunch and watch the weigh-in of the GIANT PUMPKINS. Getting pumpkins of this size onto the scales is a slow and meticulous process, involving a truck crane, a special harness and the ability to position the harness just right so that the pumpkin is evenly balanced. The first GIANT PUMPKIN weighed in at 387.5kg. That one got third place. The next one, grown by the Pumpking’s son, was 651kg. Second place. Then came the moment we were all waiting for, the announcement for the GIANT PUMPKIN grown by the Pumpking: 808kg, a new NZ record! Everyone was rightly stoked about that.
After this excitement, we saw some of the local politicians engaging in competitions like pumpkin painting. This was a brief viewing, as I was on a mission to check out my competition before the Pumpkin Racers. I had a lot of competition in the baking department. There were many cakes. The judges were eating my scones when I sidled up to the table, so I had to run away. As I perused the many and varied entries in the creative pumpkin categories I suddenly realised that the pumpkin classes had been judged already. The Husband and I quickly discovered that I had won two prizes: 2nd place for Best Mature Miniature Pumpkin, Open Class, and 2nd place for Most Perfect Pumpkin, Open Class. I was thrilled to have won two prizes, although a little disappointed to have been toppled from the miniature pumpkin top spot from last year.
I had a good look at my competition in the categories I had entered. The Lightest Mature Miniature Pumpkin, 1st, 2nd and 3rd were awarded to the same person. I’m a little miffed about that. I didn’t know until part way through registering that you could enter more than pumpkin or batch of baking in each category. I ended up entering a second pumpkin in Most Perfect Pumpkin, but I was still assuming that they would choose the best one of a person’s entries, and only one, for a prize. I would much rather no-one be allowed more than one entry in any class so everyone could have more of a fair chance at getting a prize. All or nothing, man!
The Pumpkin Racers gathered an excitable crowd. We eagerly watched as The Husband’s Pumpkin Racer hurtled down the ramp and won its heat against two others. Woohoo! But in the semi-final, it faltered as it hit the flat part of the track and thus retired from its racing career. No doubt The Husband has already sussed out some ideas for next year.
We had to wait until the prizegiving to find out the baking results. I wasn’t overly optimistic, but I was still hopeful. No prizes to be had there for Twiglet. The person who won Best Pumpkin Scone/Muffin also got third place. Yup.
All in all, it was a fantastic family day out, full of pumpkiny goodness. Did I make a swathe of orange? No. But I made a streak of orange. We came home with cake, scones and pumpkins to eat, two certificates, some seed packets and ideas brewing for next year. Upon thinking about the growing of the giant pumpkins, The Husband said, “So, what do we have to do for next year? I like the sound of this ‘we’. Maybe The Husband will get bitten by the pumpkin bug too…