Dwellingup goes pumpkin mad

DWELLINGUP Pumpkin Festival powered on through forecasts of heavy rainfall and storm warnings, with crowds flocking to see the horticultural marvels on display.

“This is Dwellingup weather. But nobody’s got a brolly up at the moment,” Dwellingup Primary School mum and Pumpkin Festival volunteer Colleen Warr, who was dressed in a bright orange inflatable pumpkin costume, said.

The festival is a major fundraiser for Dwellingup Primary School, and draws locals from the Peel region and tourists alike on Easter Saturday annually.

“It’s a good day to be a pumpkin," Ms Warr said.

"I mean, have you looked at these babies? They are massive.”

She was not wrong.

The main drawcard of the festival was, of course, the giant pumpkin contest, which attracted some impressive entries in this its 20th year.

Pumpkin King for 2016 Robert Guimelli outstripped all other competitors with his gigantic gourds.

His winning pumpkin weighed in at 161.5 kg.

“I’m only gonna stand on two of them [the winning podiums], ‘cos I donated third prize to someone else... It’s better that they enter them, it’s better for the competition,” Mr Guimelli said.

That third place was taken by Robert Warren, the son of festival founder Jeff Warren, who relocated the old pumpkin competition at Mandurah Forum to Dwellingup 20 years ago, when the shopping centre no longer wanted to host it.

“Its father and son competing, and the son’s beat him by half a kilo,” explained Mr Guimelli.

Mr Guimelli and Mr Warren put on a good show through the morning, hollowing out some of Guimelli’s pumpkins to make jack o’lanterns, doing handstands on top and putting kids inside.

Mr Warren sampled some of the raw pumpkin flesh and showed off his spitting skills by launching a pumpkin seed over five metres into the crowd.

“Not one of my pumpkins went rotten except the biggest one right at the end, you know, the last week before the competition,” said Mr Guimelli, whose hulking 220 kg pumpkin, his personal record, sat outside the festival on a trailer, disqualified due to a small patch of rot.

“It was just about 11 kilos off the state record,” he said, and then pointed to the winning pumpkin.

“That one there, if I were to go another two weeks I would’ve probably got the [state] record. I’ll do that next year, I’ve gotta leave one on, if I’ve still got a good one, I’ll leave one to go as far as it grows.”

“I’ve refined the art, and I’ve got the best seeds in the state now I think. Potash and slow release fertilizer. That’s the trick of the game. And you’ve gotta change the soil every year… pumpkins take a lot out of the ground,” he said.

He attributes his success not only to his careful watering and feeding, but also to the creek bed he grows the pumpkins on.

“I think the soil is a lot more richer there. The orchards have been growing there for about 70 years, and I think all the nutrients have come down the hill, and they’re mainly there in the creek area. I’m catching it there before it goes down the creek line.”

Mr Guimelli also takes care to shade his pumpkins and keeps their skins from drying out and cracking by covering them with blankets.

“With the full sun on them, they’ll start boiling inside, and that will go rotten. Lots of people have lost them to the heat, cos it’s been such a hot summer. But mine had blankets on them, watered them in the morning, so they were cool all day, and that way the plant never stressed,” he said.

As well as the wacky vegetables, festival-goers enjoyed music, reptile encounters, auctions, market stalls, a circus performance, food and much more.