OFFBEAT: Griffith grower tips scales with state fair second place pumpkin

Phil Potempa's daily entertainment news column
2013-08-15T00:00:00Z OFFBEAT: Griffith grower tips scales with state fair second place pumpkinBy Philip Potempa, (219) 852-4327

It's great to be back home after my Indianapolis and Indiana State Fair visit over the weekend and earlier this week.

It was easy to feel "right at home," especially by glancing at some of the local names who took home ribbons and state fair honors in various competitions.

Not far from the display with the "world's largest popcorn ball" in the Ball State Agriculture and Horticulture Building, was another "big deal" with Northwest Indiana region roots.

John Barenie and his parents Mervyn and Rita Barenie, all of Griffith, have a family tradition for growing mammoth pumpkins.

Last summer, John and his 2012 home-grown orange wonder won the Giant Pumpkin Contest at the Indiana State Fair, with the pumpkin sinking the scales at 1,293 pounds.

This year, John entered his biggest and best from this season, and his 927.5 - pound pumpkin garnered second place at this year's state fair contest. This year, he was bested by Dwight Slone of Prestonburg, Ky with his 1,039.5-pound premier pumpkin.

This isn't the first time the Barenie Family has been out-weighed by a competing state pumpkin. For example, while their pie-in-the-sky sized pumpkin took first place at the 2010 Lake County Fair weighing in a 815-pounds, their other orange entry, which tipped the scales at 1,081-pounds earned second place at the Indiana State Fair, losing to one grown by a contestant from Ohio.

Also in the same building, it was "Christmas come early" for Franklin and Shirley Egolf of Egolf Christmas Tree Farm in Wanatah after their Scotch Pine Christmas tree on display won first place, along with a second place honor for one of their beautiful holiday wreaths. Congrats to all of this year's winners and participants!

Reader TV question

Frank and Mildred Mish of Hammond called me with the following Chicago TV news question.

"Mr. Potempa: Will you please tell us what happened to Chicago ABC news anchor Sylvia Perez? She was an anchor with Linda Yu for years and now she's gone. My wife and I thought you might know the answer. Thank you for your columns. - Frank Mish"

Thank you for your question and for reading The Times. According to my Chicago TV media publicist pal, he says Perez left WLS-Channel 7, our Chicago ABC affiliate, because her contract was not renewed. Perez, 52, had been with the station for 24 years. And you are correct about her having shared anchor duties with Linda Yu. Although, more recently, she served as the medical reporter and had anchored the 11 a.m. news weekday broadcast. It's likely one of the reasons her contract was not renewed might have to do with the station recently announcing it is eliminating the 11 a.m. weekday newscast next month.

My pal said Perez, who first joined WLS-Channel 7 back in 1989, has also listed her beautiful (and large) home in Hinsdale, Ill. for sale with Coldwell Banker. According to realty listings, it carries a price tag of $2.4 million and she purchased it in 2006 for $2.2 million. For anyone with "a few extra bucks" and is interested, I'm told the home has five-bedrooms, offers a formal dining room, as well as a breakfast nook with window seats, a family room with fireplace and a large kitchen with an island and custom cabinetry. The grounds include a grotto, waterfall and pool.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 852-4327.

Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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