BY JOHN H. WALKER
THE DAILY SOUTHERNER
MACCLESFIELD — For 10-year-old T.J. and 5-year-old Marina Lovett of Macclesfield, a trip to the Yadkin Valley Pumpkin Festival in Elkins this past weekend turned out to be an award winning effort.
T.J. took top honors in the Junior Division with a 411-pound white pumpkin while Marina’s 345-pound orange pumpkin earned her the Howard Dill Award, named after legendary pumpkin grower Howard Dill of Nova Scotia.
“I was really excited,” T.J. said. “We won!”
Marina said taking care of the pumpkins and keeping birds and animals away from them was a lot of work.
“Really hard,” she said with a smile stretching almost ear-to-ear.
Both T. J. and Marina will head to Raleigh in 14 days to compete in the North Carolina State Fair, where they hope to bring home more awards.
But the youngster’s father, Jay, says T.J. hefty pumpkin may not make it.
“When we were putting it up (on display in the family’s front yard, I noticed a damp spot underneath. We may be cutting it close, but if we can’t take it, we’ll take that big, orange (Marina’s) one.”
Jay said the significance of the win in Yadkin County stems from the fact it is the only official competition-weighing site in the state.
He said the children’s pumpkins are on the small end of the scale when it comes to weight.
“It’s more the seed than anything (you can do),” he said. “The world record is 2,009 pounds and it will probably be broken in the next couple of weeks.”
While T.J’s win stemmed from size alone, Marina’s award is named after Howard Dill, a giant among giant pumpkin growers. Dill grew four consecutive world champion pumpkins from 1979 to 1982 and missed winning the fifth year by a mere five pounds. Today, his patented Dill Atlantic Giant seeds are sold worldwide to more than 50 seed companies, and the progeny commonly weigh in at over 1,000 pounds. "I don't have any training in genetics; it was all trial and error," Dill says. He has been passionate about growing "punkins" for years, a fondness he inherited from his father.