Dundee Visitor Center contest helps carve out new appreciation for pumpkins
By Erin Sauder For Sun-Times Media October 27, 2013 2:36PM
Updated: November 30, 2013 7:57PM
I am not a fan of pumpkin. There — I said it.
I have never liked pumpkin pie, been tempted by pumpkin pancakes, or taken a sip of a pumpkin spice latte.
I went to high school in Morton, known as the “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” and where Dairy Queen pumpkin Blizzards are a fall staple. I have yet to try a even a small bite.
As a kid, I liked the idea of carving pumpkins but not the actual work involved. My gag reflex would kick in as soon as I touched the stringy, squishy membranes inside the pumpkin.
That being said, I do love seeing the carved creations people come up with. And during the Dundee Township Visitor’s Center’s 15th annual Great Pumpkin Contest in East Dundee, I was not disappointed.
This year, several people entered, including my husband, Andy.
For the contest, area businesses donated more than $800 in prizes for winners in two categories: heaviest (by weight) and best decorated/carved. The top three vote-getters in each category were awarded prizes.
Zoey Brewer took first place with the largest pumpkin, which weighed in at 131 pounds.
On the design side, submissions included a pumpkin with a train engraving that matched the Dundee Depot sign and pumpkins decorated like minions from the “Despicable Me” movie. Andy did an owl sculpture. And East Dundee’s Piece-A-Cake Bakery entered — fittingly — a beautiful pumpkin spice cake designed to look like pumpkins sitting on top of one another and adorned with edible fall leaves and flowers.
Diane Ahrens from Piece-A-Cake took third place in the contest; and Mitch Saxon, who took first last year, nabbed second place with his train engraving.
I’m proud to say Andy’s owl took first place. I can attest to the labor he put into his submission. Andy is very methodical when it comes to projects, and his pumpkin was no exception. After brainstorming ideas, he set to work sketching out a design. (I sat next to him at the table playing Words With Friends.)
When carving time came, I helped scoop out the pumpkin while Andy snapped pictures of my mortified facial expressions. Then he set to work with the knives and even his Dremel drill set. Our dogs were more than happy to chase after the pumpkin bits flying all over our kitchen.
The finished product was amazing. I helped sponge paint the owl (my other contribution), and Andy took it first thing Saturday morning to the Depot.
After the contest was over, the Piece-A-Cake entry was sliced up, and everyone celebrated together.
It was a day of firsts for us: Andy’s first entry into our town’s pumpkin contest (and first win at that), and the first time I tried something pumpkin that I enjoyed.