14th Annual Pumpkin Contest!

Shown here is this year's winner in best decorated, 13-year-old Ryan Saxon. Last year, Ryan took home second place in the biggest-pumpkin category, so decided to try his hand at decorating this year. "I've been collecting Peanuts stuff all my life, and I love Halloween," he said.

Story By Julie Mullen
Originally for the Courier-News
Oct 30, 2011
EAST DUNDEE — While it was no easy task lugging giant pumpkins to the Dundee Township Visitors Center, it was well worth it in the end for several area residents who captured a virtual boatload of prizes.

Mike Wilson’s 175-pound pumpkin topped the scales in the weight division, followed by 132- and 113-pound runners-up.

Wilson, who lives in the village, said it was the first time he had ever grown a pumpkin and just got lucky.

"I didn’t do anything more than put the seed in the ground and water it," Wilson said. "It was the luck of the seed."

The giant squashes, suitable for making at least a dozen pies apiece, were the highlight at the center’s 13th annual Great Pumpkin Contest on Saturday.

However, size wasn’t the only factor being weighed by the ten-member panel of judges. Those with a creative flair captured half of the $1,200 in prizes up for grabs.

Bill Zelsdorf, who has run the contest since its inception in 1999, said that the event is a fun way to highlight the Visitor’s Center at 319 N. River St., as well as the farmers market held on its grounds, May through October.

The top prize in the decorating category went to 13 year-old Ryan Saxon of Oakwood Hills.

Saxon, whose father is a vendor in the market, is admittedly obsessed with Peanuts characters. He created a graduated tower of seven pumpkins as a tribute, with the face of Linus carved into one and a picture of Lucy drawn on another.

"I am fascinated with Peanuts stuff, and thought it would be cool to do a ‘Great Pumpkin’ theme," Saxon said.

Zelsdorf announced first, second, and third place winners in both categories, doling $300, $200, and $100 respectively in gifts and gift certificates from local merchants.

Merchant donors included Old Country Buffet, Dundee Landscape Nursery, Haeger Potteries, Barb's Studio 104, Diamond Jim’s Gas Grill, Liberty Lanes, One Cut Above the Rest hair salon, and Piece-A-Cake Bakery, among others.

While Zelsdorf receives many thank-you’s at the event, he is quick to tell anyone listening that the sponsors are the real reason the contest is a success.

"They are just wonderful," Zelsdorf said. "They get hit hard by so many people looking for donations. But they wait until I come in…and save things for me."

The farmers market — which assembled for the last time this season on Saturday — had a good year, Zelsdorf said, despite some rain.

"It was still a huge success," he said. "It’s hard to not be, with so much to offer and a great family of vendors."

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