Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2009 (3645 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Yes, while some journalists are frittering away their time talking to whistleblowers, freeing wrongly convicted prisoners and getting the bird's-eye lowdown on H1N1 flu, I will be up to my elbows in gooey pumpkin guts.
I realize you, the newspaper reader, are grateful, but there is no need to thank me. It's my job.
But if, like me, you have too much free time on your hands, I strongly urge you to put down whatever you are doing and come out to Kildonan Place Shopping Centre at 11:45 a.m. to watch this high-stakes gourd-related event.
I was delighted to be invited back for the second annual contest because (a) it raises awareness and funds for UNICEF's Trick-or-Treat campaign, which has been going on since 1955 and is poised to cross the $100-million mark; and (b) it's pretty much the only time I am encouraged to wander around a local shopping centre brandishing a large kitchen knife without being gang-tackled by mall security.
Last year, I was confident I'd be declared the Pumpkin King because I come from a family with a glorious tradition in the world of competitive carving. My mom was the Michelangelo of pumpkins. Every Halloween when I was a kid, she created massive pumpkin displays that were eerily similar to the Sistine Chapel, only more elaborate and with a lot more candles.
We usually had twice as many pumpkins as we had costumed kids pounding on our door demanding treats, which was OK because it meant we had enough of those little chocolate bars left over to put a small Third World nation into a sugar-induced coma.
Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother's carving wizardry, just as I did not inherit my father's handyman skills, a fact that became evident in high school when EVERY (bad word) project I made in metal shop — candle holders, wheelbarrows, handguns — ended up resembling an ashtray.
I once attempted to make a jack-o'-lantern using my wife's power drill, which resulted in the pumpkin spinning around like an astronaut in a centrifuge until it skittered away and turned into pie filling after slamming into a wall.
So I'm not overly talented in the carving department, which is probably why I bombed in last year's competition, wherein I attempted to wow the judges with something called The Puking Pumpkin, a revolting jack-o'-lantern that appears to be violently losing its lunch via the genius artistic technique of having gallons of gooey pumpkin guts spewing from its gaping mouth.
You'd think a pumpkin with that kind of artistic merit would have been a natural choice, but apparently I was wrong. The big winner last year was legendary children's entertainer Fred Penner, who I am pleased to announce will not be defending his title. Not that I am bitter.
Instead, I will be up against an assortment of "outstanding local celebrities," including local TV and radio weather persons; Jacqueline Chaput of the Winnipeg Police Service, who will not be bringing a gun; and Big Daddy Tazz, who is one of Canada's hottest comedians and, like myself, not the sort of person you want to see wielding a knife in a shopping centre.
In an effort to improve on last year's performance, I'm going to do the one thing you'd expect from a journalist of my standing in the community — I'm going to cheat.
Seriously, I called the nice folks at UNICEF and asked whether they felt it would be a good idea for me to cheat, and they said, sure, go for it. "The only thing you CAN'T do is pre-carve your pumpkin," Tricia Schers, director of the charity's Prairie region, explained.
However — and please do NOT tell anyone I told you this, because there are a lot of cheaters out there — Tricia agreed to email me secret photos and instructions showing how to make a pumpkin that won big in a similar contest in Alberta.
What's really exciting is this top-secret pumpkin is potentially even more nauseating than the vomiting pumpkin, which Tricia agreed was "a classic." So I've got that going for me.
"We're not about being correct," she confided. "We're about having fun."
Anyway, I'm hoping fans of high-quality journalism will come watch me carve my way to glory.
For a measly $2 you can buy a ballot to vote for your favourite pumpkin. You can even buy the pumpkins, with the cash going to help schools in Rwanda and Malawi.
So, please, come out and cheer me on. The only thing I ask is that, while applauding, you do not make any sudden noises.
Because I've got a knife.
Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.