Feb 29, 2016
In the small town of Heidelberg in the Western Cape, pumpkins are grown big, so big that over the last few years the town has delivered many record breakers. This past weekend, 27 February at the Giant Pumpkin Festival in Heidelberg, twenty-eight pumpkins competed to be crowned the 2016 champion. In the end Louwrens van Deventer, with a pumpkin weighing 373kg walked away as the winner, with his wife, Theresa, short on his heals with a second place of 354,5kg.
“This year the conditions weren’t as favourable for growing giant pumpkins as in the last few years, but I’m happy with the result and the one-two finish with my wife” said Louwrens after being announced the winner. It could be seen in the weight of this year’s entries and by the announcement that Pinkie Swart, the winner of the last two years and current South African record holder with a weight of 497,5kg, discovered his pumpkin was rotten, in the week leading up to the competition. However, his wife, Ronèl Swart, kept with the winning tradition and finished in third place with a weight of 342,5kg. The current world record is 1054kg and was set in October 2014 by Beni Meier (Switzerland).
The Shoprite Group’s fresh fruit and vegetable procurement division, Freshmark, supplies the growers with the special seeds and supports the competition under the Checkers supermarket brand by ensuring that the champion walked away with R10 000, while the second and third place winners received cash prizes to the value of R5 000 and R2 500, respectively. Additional prizes were also awarded in other categories like the smallest, prettiest and ugliest pumpkin. Growers can enter the competition with pumpkins grown from any seeds, but the seeds provided by Freshmark are special in that they are not genetically modified in any way, and originate from giant pumpkins from the North American Dill’s Atlantic Giant variety.
Growers enter the competition by acquiring seeds and planting them in carefully prepared soil. Each grower has his/her own secret growing methods which spark speculation and anticipation leading up to the event. The result is an exciting and tightly contested competition between growers.
The Heidelberg Pumpkin Festival is a one of a kind event with a variety of stalls and activities for young and old, at this year’s event there were also a MTB XC Race, Golf Day and Bowls Competition. In keeping with the strong community spirit of Heidelberg most of the pumpkins are donated by their growers towards charitable causes, a 400kg Pumpkin Pie was also baked of which a large portion will be donated to the local feeding scheme and a significant financial contribution is made to the Huis Zenobia Du Toit old age home.
The organisers of the Giant Pumpkin Festival encourages the public to enter next year’s competition, for more information visit the official website.
2016 Louwrens van Deventer 373kg
2015 Pinkie Swart 483,6kg
2014 Pinkie Swart 497,5kg (Previous SA record)
2013 Johan du Plessis 417,5kg
2012 Henry du Plessis 390kg