Campbell Riverite Kerri van Kooten-Perras is the proud grower of B.C.’s biggest pumpkin.
Her pumpkin, nicknamed Walter, weighed in at 1,152 pounds at the provincial Pumpkin-Weigh Off event in Langley on Oct. 11. While she said it was exciting to win, getting a personal best was the real treat.
“The goal is to keep getting something bigger every year,” she said. “When I hit that first thousand pound or a few years ago, it was great. It’s been a while since I’ve actually had a thousand pounder. It was nice just to have a PB (personal best).”
There must be something in the family, because growing giant pumpkins is a multi-generational thing for the van Kootens. Her father Jake grew the then-heaviest pumpkin in the world back in 2008 at 1,500 lbs. While Jake retired from competition in 2013, Kerri has kept up the tradition.
“My dad started growing probably when I was about five years old with a goal of maybe making 50 pounds and then he ended up in 2008 growing the biggest in the world. I come by it naturally. I just got the bug from him.”
Kerri has been growing competition-level pumpkins for years, and whenever she has one that could be competition weight she’ll haul it off to the mainland for the weigh-off. Before this year, the best she’s placed is third.
There’s a lot that goes into growing a champion pumpkin. Some growers even have professional soil analysis done before they even start. From there it’s about planting the seed early and letting it germinate indoors before transferring it out into the garden space.
Kerri says she puts a little tent with a heater over the plant when it’s cold out, and covers it from the most damaging rays of the sun. Vine management is a big part of it as well, which helps the plant focus its energy on the one main fruit.
”You pretty much have one pumpkin per plant,” she said. “I mean, you can have more than one but they take up quite a bit of space.”
A thousand-pound-plus pumpkin doesn’t go unnoticed. Kerri said that her truck made quite a scene in the ferry line up.
“The ferry workers were kind of curious,” she said. “They were taking pictures and cheering me on as I was driving off the ferry. It was really quite cute.”
For now, Walter the pumpkin is living at the Coastal Black Winery pumpkin festival for any who would like to see him.
Kerri also said that the hobby is quite easy to get in to.
“If anybody has an extra spot in their backyard and wants to try growing a pumpkin, it is a great thing to get into and you’re busy all summer,” she said.