Martha Wins Great Pumpkin Battle

Martha Wins Great Pumpkin Battle
EPA/Landov

10/07/2005 AT 08:00 AM EDT

Martha Stewart will be able to paddle her pumpkin, after all.

Stewart, who was initially barred from attending the annual Pumpkin Regatta in Windsor, Nova Scotia, this weekend because of a Canadian immigration rule that keeps out ex-convicts, has now received a green light to attend from authorities.

The regatta, a charity race organized by Windsor pumpkin farmer Howard Dill, features politicians, local celebrities and others who paddle 500 yards across Lake Pesaquid in hollowed-out giant pumpkins.

"We're pretty happy. I mean, this was in the works for quite a while," Dill's son Danny tells Reuters about Stewart showing up. A spokeswoman for Stewart's TV show confirmed the star would attend. That leaves the matter of her pumpkin.

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

On Wednesday's edition of her daytime show, Martha, Stewart talked about the political turmoil and the cancellation of her proposed visit to Lake Pesaquid for the festivities. "I was all set," she said. "I'm just sorry that things like this do happen."

Stewart, 64, was convicted of having lied to federal investigators looking into a stock sale. She spent five months in a correctional facility and another nearly six months in home confinement.

As for how the change of heart took place: Canadian immigration officials, keen to avoid a public relations faux pas, contacted Stewart's office to say she would quickly get the permit if she applied for one. She did, and they did.

Still, not everyone thinks this is a good thing. Libby Davies, a New Democrat federal legislator, accused the Liberal government of bending over backwards to assist 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," Davies complained.

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