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You Can Grow It: Big fruits and veggies at the Western Idaho Fair

Jim Duthie takes us back to the 2019 fair to show us some of the blue-ribbon winners for fruits and vegetables.

BOISE, Idaho — As you know, the Western Idaho Fair is canceled this year, so there won’t be any blue ribbons for the biggest pumpkins or most beautiful roses. That’s why last week on ‘You Can Grow It,’ garden master Jim Duthie looked back at some last year’s award-winning floral entries at the fair.

Jim takes us back again to the 2019 Western Idaho Fair to remind us of some of the blue-ribbon winners for fruits and vegetables. You’re sure to get some inspiration, so that maybe you can grow it next year, and perhaps even try for a blue ribbon of your own.

Expo Idaho is pretty much empty right now. Usually, the Western Idaho Fair would be getting underway, so this would be a busy place with carnival rides, food booth, concerts, livestock, and of course the entries for the best fruits and vegetables Idaho gardeners can grow. But even though the fair has been canceled this year, I’m going to take you back to last year’s fair for a little reminder of what we’ll be missing.

When it comes to growing fruits and vegetables, Idaho gardeners grow just about everything. But in this division at the Western Idaho Fair, size matters.

This is the display showing the largest and heaviest of everything from beets to eggplants to cantaloupes and cabbages.

“We got about 150 exhibitors that brought out almost 1,300 exhibits,” said Hans Bruijn, agriculture coordinator.

Like these zucchini. Some of them are almost three feet long. And some of these cucumbers are almost as big.

This onion weighs in at a couple of pounds. Take it along with this super-sized tomato, and they’ll handle all the hamburgers at your next cookout.

And then there’s this monster of a watermelon, coming in at over 100 pounds.

“When it comes to the largest division, it’s basically just size and weight, depending on a little bit of what it is, like the pumpkins, they’re being weighed. And then we have like this sunflower, so we measure the length and will just go from there, and every year they seem to get bigger.”

This giant measuring more than a foot across. That’s a lot of sunflower seeds.

Winning entries are awarded a blue ribbon for their category, but the biggest ones get the orange ribbon, the award for the biggest fruit or vegetable of its kind. And that’s not all. Winners can take home a cash prize, too.

“We actually get some sponsors that put in quite a bit of money, so the first place winner could get at least $150, besides the blue ribbon.”

Not to mention bragging rights.

“It buys a lot of seeds, and they probably use the seeds from the pumpkin that is right here.”

And this is the biggest of the bunch. Imagine the Halloween Jack-O-Lantern you could make with this one! How much do you think it weighs? 50 pounds? 100 pounds? How about a whopping 280 pounds.

But as big as it is, there have been bigger ones entered in the Western Idaho Fair before.

“I remember about two or three years ago, we did have one that we had to bring in on a forklift, because we couldn’t… nobody could carry it. So this year we still needed a little help, but not quite a big forklift.”

That was in 2015, and that giant pumpkin was twice the size of this one, weighing in at 544-and-a-half pounds.

None of these fruits and vegetables would be here if it weren’t for the honey bees, so there’s also a division for honey and beeswax products.

“We have more and more people that are getting involved in raising bees and honey, so we can see that here at the fair.”

“They actually have little hives with live bees that you can come and watch.”

The judges certainly have their work cut out for them. There are more than 350 categories in the agriculture division alone.

They’ve got to decide which entries get blue ribbons for first place, red for second, and white for third, plus some honorable mentions.

Unfortunately, those judges won’t be busy awarding ribbons this year. But they’ll be back in 2021 when the Western Idaho Fair returns. And maybe you’ll get a blue ribbon for the biggest pumpkin next year.

While most events at the Western Idaho Fair won’t be happening this year, there are some 4-H and FFA youth exhibits, competitions and sales that will still take place. And fair officials are already gearing up for the 2021 fair.

RELATED: You Can Grow It: Flowers that can win a blue ribbon at the fair

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