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Freeland pumpkin claims ‘ugly’ prize
FREELAND — In the realm of competitive pumpkins, Larry McMaster of Freeland wins ugly.
“This is the second year in a row,” he said Tuesday. “Maybe that’s telling me something.”
McMaster, a South End builder, was named grower of the “ugliest pumpkin” in the 13th annual Whidbey Island Giant Pumpkin Contest, part of last weekend’s Coupeville HarvestFest.
His 222-pound entry was the overwhelming favorite of the crowd, festival officials said.
It’s a little on the misshapen side, all right, but that’s not the whole story, McMaster said.
“I had to slam on my brakes on the way to Coupeville,” he said. “It ended up with a lot of bruises.”
The secret of his success?
“I just planted it next to my manure pile,” he said. “I’m not as serious about it as other people.” Some contestants, he said, go so far as to get out the electric blankets.
McMaster has entered the contest the past three years. His first year, he won the top prize in weight, his pumpkin going over 300 pounds. This year his “ugly” entry finished fourth in weight.
“The competition is a lot stiffer now,” he shrugged.
This year’s winner was 719 pounds, raised by Phil Renninger of Coupeville. Second and third places went to Mark and Erin Borden, also of Coupeville. The junior division was won by Drake Borden.
The “prettiest giant pumpkin” went to Michele Renninger for “a nicely shaped and ribbed beauty of 176 pounds,” officials said.
“It wasn’t a very good growing year,” McMaster said. “The flowers didn’t set until July.”
He said he won a couple of gift certificates, “and all my seeds for next year.”
Yes, he added, he’ll be back next year.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said, “and the grandkids enjoy it. Next year I’m going for the heaviest.”
Plans are already underway for next year’s contest, officials said. Meanwhile, free giant pumpkin seeds are available to all Whidbey Island residents, thanks to a grant from the Coupeville Festival Association.
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