1,700 pound pumpkin breaks Roland Fair record

Charlie Bernstrom, with wife Mallory and daughter Briar, had the biggest pumpkin at the Roland Pumpkin Fair this year. The pumpkin was a record-breaking 1753.5 pounds. (LAUREN MACGILL, Winkler Times)

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A new record was set at the 28th annual Roland Pumpkin Fair as the biggest pumpkin in its history weighed in at 1,753.5 pounds.

Charlie Bernstrom from Lancaster, Minnesota won the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth Weigh-Off with his giant pumpkin, surpassing his win last year by over 200 pounds.

“Like I said last year, you get to the scale and it makes you feel pretty good,” Bernstrom said. “There’s a lot of stress that goes on throughout the year.”

Bernstrom said he figured the pumpkin would be around 1,800 pounds when he brought it to the competition. Battling dry weather conditions, Bernstrom put a lot of effort into growing the giant plant.

“It was warm,” he said. “We had an inch of rain from July to the middle of September, so it was dry. With the three plants, it was 35,000 gallons out of the river. Every day they get fertilized. Lots of water. You’ve got to spray fungicide and insecticide for the bugs and disease.”

Bernstrom has been growing his giant pumpkins for five years, and said he’s addicted to it. This pumpkin is the biggest he’s ever grown.

“You always want to get bigger,” he said. “The Minnesota state record is 1,900 pounds.”

Bernstrom will be taking the pumpkin back to Lancaster, where the county literacy council will lift it 80 feet in the air with a crane and drop it on a vehicle to raise funds. Last year they dropped one pumpkin on a van and one in a 12,000 gallon pool and raised $1,200.

Bernstrom offered some advice for first time growers. “Give it lots of care and water and fertilizer,” he said. “Ask advice from growers.”

Second place went to Cornie Banman of Schanzenfeld, who set a Manitoba grown record of 1,522 pounds. Coming in third was 2015 and 2016 champ Milan Lukes of Winnipeg with his 1,369.5 pound plant.

The Roland Arena was packed with people for the weigh-off and the fair.

“We had a great crowd again this year,” Pumpkin Fair board member Lisa Pinkerton-Baschuk said. “You never know when it’s on Thanksgiving weekend if we’ll have more people or fewer people. I had heard it was a really great growing year, so we were glad to see so many huge pumpkins out this year.”

This year saw a few first-year growers compete, and Pinkerton-Baschuk said it was good to see. “We knew we had a few new growers coming out but we had no idea they were this big,” she said. “That was pretty impressive.”

“It’s always amazing to us locals how many people come out to watch the weigh-off and how exciting it is for people,” she added. “It’s more common to us in the Roland area, but people get pretty excited about big pumpkins.”

A few long-serving members of the Pumpkin Fair board have stepped down, and Pinkerton-Baschuk said in order to keep holding the fair they will need some new board members to fill those spots.

“We need some new board members and people to help out in the planning stages and not just the day of the fair,” she said. “We really appreciate the volunteers that help out the day of the fair but we also need those people that do all the planning before the event.”

The Pumpkin Fair is also looking for a non-profit to cater the harvest supper as a fundraiser, as their current organization has been catering for the past 10 years and will be retiring from that position.