Giant pumpkins stars of fundraiser


The Prineville Eagles Lodge is hosting a fundraiser to benefit Alzheimers research that has participants guessing the weight of two giant pumpkins

by: RON HALVORSON - Jack Berman (LEFT) and Charlee Harmon (RIGHT) sit on top of the two giant pumpkins being used for the Alzheimer's Research fundraiser at the Prineville Eagles Lodge.

Lonny and Kacie — a personable, yet quiet pair of pumpkins — wait patiently in a corner of the Prineville Eagles Lodge, as people stop to gawk.

It’s not as if they are out of place during this month of October. Countless others of their ilk grace homes and businesses in anticipation of Halloween, the reason and culmination of their existence.

However, instead of joining the ranks of the ubiquitous jack-o’-lanterns standing guard on darkened front porches, Lonny and Kacie have a far nobler mission: Guess their weights — they’re a bit on the heavy side — and you win a prize. And so does Alzheimer’s research.

It’s just one of the many charity fundraisers conducted each year by the local Eagles, according to Charlee Harmon, chairwoman of the lodge’s Alzheimer’s group.

“Our motto is, ‘People helping people,’” she said. Other charities supported include the local Kid’s Club, the dental van, and the Jimmie Durante fund (for children). They also give out food vouchers for Christmas dinners.

“Something’s happening almost every month here to raise money for charities,” she said. “It’s a very active organization.” Alzheimer’s research is a personal crusade for Harmon.

“My mother died — she had dementia,” she said. “It was really sad to see this. One of the other ladies in our lodge, she has dementia, and it’s getting worse.”

The way the contest works is that each guess costs a dollar, and contestants can make as many guesses as they have dollars until the evening of Oct. 31. The next day, the entries will be tallied, and the guess (or guesses, in case of a tie) closest to each pumpkin’s actual weight will be a winner. Each winner will split the proceeds with Alzheimer’s research.

The contest isn’t just for the Eagles — anyone can participate. “It can be for anybody,” she said. “They can come in the door, we’ll ring them in, and they can make their guess.”

Harmon said this is the third year the Eagles have put on this particular fundraiser. In the previous two years, Eagle Jack Berman’s pumpkin earned the right to preside over the event.

Not this year.

“They just didn’t come,” said Berman. “I think I’ve got soil problems, too. I’ve been doing this for quite a few years. In fact, I’m the one that started most of these guys (growing giant pumpkins). The first one I grew was pretty good size. Well, they just kept getting smaller and smaller instead of bigger.”

Berman, though, gave Harmon her seeds.

“So I planted my pumpkin, watered it, gave it fertilizer, that’s all I did,” she said.

Only one plant was tended, and only two vines grew — each with a solitary pumpkin.

“Every time another one starts to grow, this big pumpkin says, ‘No. I want this energy,’” she related, “and the other one dies.”

Harmon said she had no problem with the hail that did so much damage in Central Oregon last summer, and made sure her pumpkin plant had lots of water. Berman also thought her soil was better.

The pumpkins were picked on Sept. 29. Getting them from the field to the lodge was a challenge.

“We carried them on blankets,” she said. “Each one of us got a corner of a blanket, and inched it out of the garden. Got them on his (Berman’s) trailer, and then we brought them in to Quimby’s (meat market across the street). Shane Quimby weighed them for us. We had the blanket, tied a noose, hung them up, and he weighed them for us just like a deer.”

For obvious reasons, Harmon wouldn’t divulge the pumpkins’ weights, but she did say each was more than 100 lbs. Last year, with only one pumpkin from Berman’s garden, the winner took home about $65. She hopes for more this year.

“I’m going to say we’re going to raise twice that amount,” she predicted. “Because of the two pumpkins, they’re (the Eagles) all excited about guessing it.”