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What: Giant Pumpkin Festival
Who: Constantly Growing
Where: El Dorado County Fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville
When: Saturday, Sept. 28 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 29 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: Free with a parking fee
Information: [email protected] or call 530-263-0109.
Money may not grow on trees but it does pop up on vines … if the vine bears a gigantic pumpkin that outweighs the others during the inaugural Constantly Growing Giant Pumpkin Festival set for Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.
The winning pumpkin grower will take home $2,000 for the top honor in a two-day event that also has other contests, including a baking contest sure to please attendees.
The giant pumpkin festival, the first of its kind in El Dorado County, sprouted from the efforts of Casey Labbitt, owner of Constantly Growing hyrdoponics gardening store on Enterprise Drive in Diamond Springs.
Labbitt, 40, said he was approached by pumpkin growers who thought a local venue for the popular statewide festivals would bear fruit.
The event is state sanctioned, following state-set guidelines and rules, according to Labbitt’s mom, Dolly Fassio, who has been helping her son and daughter-in-law Stephanie, with organizing the El Dorado County extravaganza.
“The pumpkin festivals are a big deal in California, with prizes like $25,000 when you get to the top levels,” said Fassio, 64, of Placerville. “The growers go from festival to festival, and they have to have a different pumpkin to enter in each, separate event.
“We want to see this thing (festival) pick-up-and-go here in El Dorado County so that we can get more and more sponsors and make it bigger and better in the future.”
How can it get better than this? There will be a Giant Pumpkin Weigh-In, plus categories for the Prettiest Pumpkin, Heaviest Watermelon, Heaviest Gourd, Heaviest Squash, Largest Zucchini and Largest Sunflower.
For festival goers beer and wine tasting will be available along with arts and crafts, food vendors, giant pumpkin carving, pumpkin baking contest with a top prize of $200 and complimentary gardening supplies.
And it’s all free of charge for both days; hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.
The fairgrounds charges a minimal fee for parking.
Fassio said a portion of the proceeds from the Constantly Growing Giant Pumpkin Festival will go toward local military family support groups, as she has been in touch with the Forgotten Warrior organization.
The American Legion Riders military support group will be on hand during the two days at the fairgrounds, 100 Placerville Drive in Placerville, as well as a sharp honor guard presentation by Cadet Squadron 85 of the Civil Air Patrol.
Sunday’s events will include an auction open to public consignment, with several tantalizing items already scheduled for bid, according to Fassio. Call her at 530-263-0109 for more details.
Casey Labbitt said that attendees will have a chance to pick up tips, information and free samples available from gardening vendors who are on the cutting edge of the industry.
That includes the expertise of Labbitt, who has owned Constantly Growing for 13 years and has been involved with hydroponics for 20 years.
“My mom raised us with gardening, but hydroponics is, for the general public, an untouched industry,” said Labbitt as his wife Stephanie, 39, unloaded the couple’s two young children from a Smart car wrapped in orange, making it a giant jack-o-lantern complete with a black snaggle-toothed smile as it tools down local roads.
“We just had it wrapped — it was blue yesterday,” said Stephanie as she took Calloway, 2, and Maverick, 4, in tow to pose them on a big pumpkin to have their picture taken to promote the festival.
“And let’s face it, you hear ‘hydroponics’ and you immediately think of medical marijuana growers,” Casey continued. “But the reason they come here, to learn about hydroponics, organic pesticides and fertilizers, is because it works. The reason these guys are here is that hydroponics is the best you can get.”
Casey added that the once-fledgling industry may have proven too expensive for the novice, backyard gardener or even the larger growers in the past, but things have changed over the past two decades.
“It used to be expensive, but, for example, a quart of plant food that once cost $100 now costs $16,” Casey said.
In addition to Constantly Growing hydroponics, some of California’s top gardening companies and their experts will be on hand to give away their best organic products and information.
Mom Dolly Fassio added that the El Dorado County Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers also will be available to the public during the festival.
For more information regarding the Constantly Growing Giant Pumpkin Festival, go to [email protected] or call 530-263-0109.