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  • The Low Down

Great pumpkins

Precocious, blanket-toting Linus from the Peanuts comics awaited the Great Pumpkin each Halloween night from 1950 to 1999. If anyone else had been stood-up that many times by the same character, they’d have thrown in the blanket for sure.

Perhaps Linus’ resolute faith that the mythical pumpkin would show was because every year brings the world a greater pumpkin. In fact, they’ve gotten so big that people have fashioned them into boats.

Being the scholarly lad he was, Linus probably looked north on Halloween because he knew great pumpkins come from Canada. In 1979, Nova Scotia farmer and plant breeder Howard Dill patented “Dill’s Atlantic Giant,” a pumpkin variety whose genetics form the basis for today’s record-breakers. Although Mr. Dill was often referred to as the pumpkin king, I doubt he’s related to the Great Pumpkin. These days, giant pumpkin enthusiasts (that’s regular-size people and colossal produce) compete in dozens of countries thanks to Dill.

On Oct. 2, 2021, a Cape Breton grower brought things back to where they all began with his 1,956-pound leviathan he dubbed “Howard’s Ghost” in honour of the pumpkin king. Howard (the pumpkin) set a Maritime record and came within three pounds of being a national champion. The Canadian national record is still held by a Kitchener area couple who, in 2018, grew a 1,959- pound darling — a dream come true for Linus. </