A persistently meticulous caretaker of enormous seasonal gourds, Waldo Leistico took home the grand prize in Nowthen Heritage Festival’s giant pumpkin contest.
His Atlantic Giant pumpkin tipped the scales at 429.2 pounds, nearly 100 pounds heavier than the second-place pumpkin, The pumpkin of Avis Leistico, Waldo’s wife, was a 333.3-pound entry in the giant pumpkin contest.
Waldo’s giant pumpkin plant prowess took root back in June when, after collecting two pumpkin plants from Viking Nursery (the official supplier for the contest), he strategically planted them in centuries-old ground on his Nowthen property.
And then, day after day during the growing season Waldo spent four or more hours each day, tending, protecting and guarding the gourds.
“You have to watch ‘em,” Waldo said. “This year planting was late. They got a lot of disease. You have to keep them out of the sun. You don’t move them, you don’t touch them, but the vine – you have to raise it up.”
But the secret to raising such a large pumpkin?
“The secret is you have to get my secret,” Waldo said, with a quick wink and a winning smile.
Waldo has entered Nowthen’s giant pumpkin contest before, taking home third place and second place in years past, but never winning first prize until now.
And what will he do now that the pumpkins have been picked?
“Well, now I’ll just brag about them,” he said, patting his giant pumpkin and smiling at his wife, Avis.
“He’s got tears when he has to let go of those pumpkins. He’s spent a lot of time with them,” Avis said.
Waldo’s prize-winning giant pumpkin is now on display at Berry Hill Farm on 185th Ave., in Nowthen.
Other Nowthen Heritage Festival activities included a scarecrow contest, art and craft fair, petting zoo, antique tractor display, hay wagon rides, inflatable playgrounds, live music and more.
A steak dinner, catered by Texas Roadhouse and served underneath a giant tent at Nowthen Park, was served to hungry folks with proceeds helping to fund the festival.
Inside Nowthen City Hall, a historic display was set up and included the 73-year long history of the Nowthen Pioneer Town Ball team as well as pictures and letters from Nowthen’s early days, and a collection of handmade quilts and antique farm tools.
Mayor Bill Schulz talked about what makes Nowthen a place to celebrate.
“Nowthen is a great place because they’re great people,” her said. “It’s a small town atmosphere with deep, rich history. Families have lived here for generations. It’s a great place.”
The Nowthen Heritage Festival ended with a bang when Zambelli Fireworks ignited the sky at dusk.
Sue Austreng is at