Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen here at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, in August 2019. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen here at the Alaska State Fair in Palmer, Alaska, in August 2019. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Going the distance

Cucumber makes it past the Swan Lake Fire to break the Alaska State Fair record

This year’s grand prize cucumber at the Alaska State Fair shattered the state record for length, but it almost had to travel through fire to get there.

Richard Link of Soldotna knew that he had a record-breaker on his hand when he harvested his 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch (44 inches when measured by the curve) cucumber earlier this year.

A problem arose, however, when the Swan Lake Fire — which has been burning on the Kenai Peninsula since June 5 — jumped across the Sterling Highway two weeks ago and led to multiple road closures and delays. The Sterling Highway is part of the only road route to Palmer from Soldotna, so Link and his cucumber were essentially stranded on the Kenai Peninsula.

Even though Link had already looked up the previous record and knew that he had it beat, the road closures had him ready to throw in the towel. Luckily his wife, Ludy, was determined to get that cucumber to Palmer.

Ludy contacted her sister in Anchorage and made a plan to transport the gourd by plane from Kenai to Anchorage. Grant Aviation cut them a deal and agreed to fly the cucumber for just $30. So the Links dropped it off at the Kenai airport and Ludy’s sister picked it up when it landed in Anchorage.

From there, the Links’ daughter-in-law drove down from Eagle River to pick it up in Anchorage. To complete the family relay race, the Links’ daughter-in-law got it to the fair in Palmer by the time it was set to be judged on the afternoon of Wednesday, Aug. 21.

This is his first year submitting a cucumber to judging at the State Fair, but Link has been growing cucumbers for the past five years or so. Each year he likes to try out a few different varieties to see how well they grow, and this year he just happened to pick a winner: the Armenian cucumber.

The Armenian variety is a lighter shade of green, has deeper ridges and tends to be longer and thinner than other varieties. Link said that he prefers growing the longer varieties and noted that the taste of his Armenian cucumbers was sweeter than most.

“It’s almost like a cross between a cucumber and a melon,” Link said.

Cucumbers are meant to grow in subtropical climates and are very susceptible to frost, so Link has to cultivate his in a high tunnel. This year’s winner spent about two and a half months growing in Link’s high tunnel, and Link said that he noticed early on it was going to be way bigger than he expected.

“At one point I had to make a sling for it so that it could hang horizontally and wouldn’t fall off the vine,” Link said.

When asked if he planned on entering the contest again next year, Link’s answer was a definite yes.

“I’m hooked now,” Link said.

Link said that this summer offered extraordinary yields with more than just his cucumbers. For example, Link has several beehives and said that this year he was able to collect 15 gallons of honey from each one. Normally he collects about 5 gallons. Link also entered a zucchini into the Kenai Peninsula Fair in Ninilchik this year which won best in show.

Link’s advice to would-be cucumber farmers is to persevere through any obstacles that may arise, whether it’s having to build a sling to support them or buying a plane ticket to fly them over a fire.

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen with its ribbons in this August 2019 photo. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Richard Link’s prize-winning Armenian cucumber is seen with its ribbons in this August 2019 photo. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Soldotna, Alaska, resident Richard Link and his prize-winning Armenian cucumber are seen here in this August 2019 photo. The 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch cucumber took home grand prize at the 2019 Alaska State Fair. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

Soldotna, Alaska, resident Richard Link and his prize-winning Armenian cucumber are seen here in this August 2019 photo. The 14-pound, 37 3/8-inch cucumber took home grand prize at the 2019 Alaska State Fair. (Courtesy Ludy Link)

More in News

Elementary school students line up to touch a salmon during the annual egg take demonstration at the Anchor River on Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Anchor Point, Alaska. Students leave the egg take event with fertilized salmon eggs to raise into fry throughout the year through the Salmon in the Classroom project hosted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Sport Fish Division. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News file)
Kids to get close-up look at fish life cycle

Alaska Department of Fish and Game representatives will conduct presentations at coho salmon egg takes

Fat Bear Week bracket (Photo courtesy Katmai National Park & Preserve)
Fat bears face off

Voters decide on the heftiest Katmai brown bear

Voting booths are set up at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Unofficial results: school bond, field house OK’d

Incumbents also came out ahead in preliminary results

Spencer McLean and his daughter, Emma McLean, show their support for Proposition 3, through which a new CES Station 1 would be constructed in Soldotna, on Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Blustery weather, average turnout mark municipal election day

Up for consideration this year were city council, board of education and assembly seats, as well as a handful of propositions affecting borough schools, emergency services and legislative representation

Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander sits inside Kenai City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ostrander to leave City of Kenai in January

Ostrander has served as the city manager since 2017

Melanie Hardin, right, greets the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp.’s Board of Trustees before her interview for the APFC’s executive director’s job Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, in Juneau, (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Permanent Fund board picks new executive director

Trustees work overtime selecting from three candidates after interviews Monday

A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
A sign welcoming visitors to the Literary Haunted House at the Kenai Community Library can be seen here on Oct. 30, 2019. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion file)
Libraries host haunted houses, scary storytimes, seasonal crafts

It’s all about Halloween at Kenai and Soldotna libraries

Kenai Fire Marshal Jeremy Hamilton is seen by one of Kenai Fire Department’s Tower trucks on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Kenai Fire Department in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Get up, get out and get safe’

Kids taught about fire safety as part of prevention effort

Bob Bird, left, chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, and former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman make the case in favor of a state constitutional convention during a debate in Anchorage broadcast Thursday by Alaska Public Media. (Screenshot from Alaska Public Media’s YouTube channel)
Constitutional convention debate gets heated

Abortion, PFD factor into forum.

Most Read