Rule number one when visiting Smoky Lake in the fall: embrace pumpkins. Every October on the first Saturday of the month, dozens of pumpkin growers from across Western Canada, and a few hundred spectators, pack the Smoky Lake Agricultural Complex to find out who among them has grown the heaviest pumpkin of the year. The official weigh-in starts at 12:30 pm sharp and continues throughout the afternoon. The Great White North Pumpkin Fair and Weigh-Off started in 1989 as a friendly wager between two brothers but has now become one of Alberta’s most popular growing event. It’s even garnered the attention outside of Canada, recognized as the most northerly sanctioned growing weight event in North America. (Yes, there an international pumpkin growing organization.)
After the winner is crowned, the real party starts. This year’s celebrations include an old-time threshing bee, pumpkin auction, panckake breafast, beer gardens, Show N’ Shine and an evening dance. Don’t leave town before seeing a Mammoet crane drop a giant pumpkin from 150 feet up in the air on top of a car.
Yes, this rural town embraces its agrarian roots in the fall, but Smoky Lake is a year-round destination with a variety of attractions, especially for outdoor enthusiasts. Cyclists, quadders, cross-country skiers, horseback riders and snowmobilers can pick up the historic Iron Horse Trail – a former fur-trading route – from downtown Smoky Lake. Other history lessons can be learned from onion-domed Eastern Orthodox churches, built in the late 1800s by Ukrainian homesteaders. No trip to a farming community is complete without taking home some locally grown produce.
To view the full schedule of events on September 30 to October 2 and find out how to enter the pumpkin weigh off, visit the Smoky Lake town website.