Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
On a perfect summer Saturday, the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction kicked off its 84th season. The masses streamed into the Champlain Valley Exposition as fair vendors hawked food, drinks, games and amusement rides. Dairy farmers marched cows to the milking booth as acrobats flew through the air in a crowd-pleasing performance.
Observer photo by Tim Simard
Belgian horses from Sugar Ridge RV Village in Danville show off for fairgoers on Saturday at the Champlain Valley Fair in Essex Junction.
Inside the expo center buildings, people watched as sculptors painstakingly created a giant homage to Batman made completely out of sand. The faces of the villains from the summer film “The Dark Knight” — the Joker and Two-Face — leered from below.
Behind Batman were the giant pumpkins, all 800 pounds of them.
Williston resident Mary Whitcomb, who usually enters a giant pumpkin at the fair, entered a smaller one for the large field pumpkin category. She placed second in that category, while her brother, Kevin Companion of Huntington, placed first. He also placed first with a massive 865-pound giant pumpkin.
Whitcomb had won in both categories over the past two years, but it was her brother’s turn to take home the glory.
“He got me this year,” Whitcomb said with a laugh.
Despite the rainy conditions this summer, Whitcomb was able to grow a wide variety of pumpkins, including the several hundred pound giant pumpkins.
Whitcomb said the growing process begins inside before the pumpkins are transplanted outside.
“The large field pumpkins we grew are now between 30 to 50 pounds,” Whitcomb said.
Whitcomb explained giant and large field pumpkins continue to grow and should be ready for harvesting in a couple weeks. She said it would coincide with the corn maze at her family’s farm, which will also be ready for the public in a few weeks.
In her second year of entering vegetables to be judged, resident Mary Ann Wolf submitted four types of beans, two different potatoes, rhubarb, Japanese eggplant and plum tomatoes.
For her expertise in the garden, Wolf won four first-place blue ribbons, two second-place red ribbons and one third-place yellow ribbon. One of the blue-ribbon wins was awarded to the eggplant, a category she won last year.
Wolf has a plot in the Williston Community Gardens, where she grows vegetables for her family. She said the judges look for certain qualities when awarding prizes.
“(The judges) want things to be uniform in shape, with the stems still attached,” Wolf said.
Wolf said the ribbons also had small monetary prizes attached. First place earned $5, second place earned $3 and third place earned $1. Wolf said she plans to split her $27 award money with her two granddaughters, Caroline and Olivia Wolf, who helped her in the garden.
Wolf encouraged other gardeners to enter vegetables in next year’s garden competition. She said it was easy and fun.
“I really didn’t think we’d win all those ribbons,” Wolf said.
The Champlain Valley Fair, held at The Champlain Valley Exposition, runs through Monday, Sept. 1. More information is available online at www.cvexpo.org.