October 6, 2005

Martha Stewart set to race giant pumpkin in Canada

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Worried Martha Stewart fans can relax --
the ex-convict lifestyle guru will be rowing a giant 600 lb
(270 kg) decorated pumpkin across a Canadian lake this weekend
after all.

Stewart had looked set to miss Sunday's charity pumpkin
race in the Atlantic province of Nova Scotia because her
conviction for lying about a stock trade meant she needed
special permission to enter Canada.

As a U.S. citizen, the founder of Martha Stewart Living
Omnimedia Inc. would not need a visa, but those with criminal
records must apply for a permit.

Stewart initially said she doubted her trip would be
approved in time but Canadian immigration officials, keen to
avoid a public relations faux pas, contacted her office to say
she would quickly get the permit if she applied for one.

The charity race is organized by Howard Dill, a pumpkin
farmer who lives in the town of Windsor, close to the Nova
Scotia capital of Halifax. Canadian newspapers said he had once
grown a pumpkin weighing 980 lb.

"We're pretty happy. I mean, this was in the works for
quite a while," Dill's son Danny told Reuters. A spokeswoman
for Stewart's television show confirmed the star would attend.

The annual Pumpkin Regatta features politicians, local
celebrities and others who paddle 500 meters (550 yards) across
Windsor's Lake Pesaquid in hollowed-out giant pumpkins.

"The one we've got set aside for Martha weighs 676
pounds... by the time we've maybe cut the hole in it and got it
ready, it'll still be around 600 pounds rowing weight," said

Racers tend to use kayak paddles to get them across the
lake and the good news for Stewart is that "the majority of
them make it," according to Dill.

"The winner has done it usually in 10 minutes. but some
take half an hour, plus there are some in the DNF -- did not
finish (category)," he laughed.

But not everyone was happy. Libby Davies, a federal
legislator for the left-leaning New Democrats, accused the
Liberal government of bending over backwards to help a felon.

"When a relative who lives abroad tries to visit family in
Canada there are unbelievable delays and frustration. Yet when
Martha Stewart gets out of jail and decides to race pumpkins in
Canada, well, she gets her visa in record time," she complained
to Immigration Minister Joe Volpe in Parliament.

Volpe later said cases involving celebrities with criminal
records usually took much less time to handle than had been the
case with Stewart.

"Those that are prepared to come over know they have a
problem and they ... know exactly what to do," he told