Pumped-up pumpkins

In Canby, Oregon, it's trains, cranes, and giant pumpkins
Karl Samson

Remember those old postcards that showed a single humongous ear of corn filling the entire bed of a truck? If you thought vegetables that big were just farmers' fantasies, then you haven't been to the annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off in Canby, Oregon.

Pumpkins of a more manageable size are also plentiful this month at Canby-area farms. Throw in a corn maze, a straw-bale "mountain," and a haunted barn, and you'll have enough activities to keep the whole family busy.

To reach Canby from Portland or other points north, you'll need to take the six-vehicle Canby Ferry ($1.25 each way; 503/650-3030) across the Willamette River. The ferry, which runs along overhead and underwater cables, is one of only three on the Willamette.

Once across the river, your first stop should be at the Flower Farmer (2512 N. Holly St.; www.flowerfarmer.com or 503/266-3581), where the narrow-gauge Ichabod Train ($3.75), with its giant jack-o'-lantern engine, takes you to a pumpkin patch. A maze inside the farm's pyramidal Straw Mountain also gives kids a place to burn off excess energy.Next, head 2 miles south to Hoffman's Dairy Garden (6815 S. Knights Bridge Rd.; www.hoffmanfamilyfarms.com, where you'll find a corn maze ($3) and a haunted barn. Visit on October 2 for the Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off (10-6; $5), and you'll also get to see some of the most pumped-up pumpkins on earth. Last year, a specimen grown by Oregonian Steve Daletas tipped the scales at 1,385 pounds, setting a new world record.

The pumpkins are weighed at the end of the day, and tension mounts as forklifts carefully shuttle potential prizewinners to the scales. When the first tops 1,000 pounds, a gasp of amazement ripples through the crowd before the cheering begins.

But the highlight of the day is the pumpkin car crush, where a crane hoists a giant pumpkin 100 feet into the air and then drops it onto an old car. The resulting destruction lends new meaning to the word squash.

Go to Canby

Canby is about 20 miles south of downtown Portland. From I-5, take I-205 south to Stafford Rd. (exit 3) and continue south. Bear left onto Mountain Rd. and go south 4 1/2 miles to the Canby Ferry. For more information, contact Oregon's Mt. Hood Territory ( www.mthoodterritory.com or 888/622-4822).