For U.S. residents, fall and pumpkins go hand in hand. Some use the fruit to make delicious soups and bread, others to carve out scary jack-o-lanterns. Then there are those that spend months growing giant-sized gourds that they use to compete at pumpkin weigh-offs. While there are numerous competitions held across the country, the 'Super Bowl' takes place at Half Moon Bay, CA, which prides itself on being the 'Pumpkin Capital of the World.'
Now in its 42nd year, the event has always been very popular among master pumpkin growers. However this year, it was even more so. That's because the winner had an opportunity to take home as much as $30,000 USD, the highest ever offered for a pumpkin weigh-in competition. But to claim the 'World Record Prize,' contestants had to submit a 'World Record Pumpkin.' This meant bringing a specimen that weighed more than the 2,323-pound behemoth grown by Swiss national Beni Meier in 2012. If the heaviest pumpkin in the contest was unable to surpass the record, its owner would receive $6 USD for every pound it weighed.
On October 12th thousands of spectators lined up along the city's High Street and watched in awe as proud pumpkin owners from across country paraded their prized possessions. Each was carefully picked up by forklifts and placed on a digital weighing scale. While they were all pretty impressive, it was Steven Daletas, a 55-year-old pilot from Pleasant Hill, OR that took home the top honors.
Though his vanilla colored gourd that weighed 1969 pounds was not heavy enough to break the world record, it did earn him almost $12,000 USD ($6 x 1969), as well as the coveted 'Mel Mello Sr. Grand Champion Green Jacket.' Daletas, who has won this competition twice before, in 2001 and 2003, said he was thrilled at winning the prestigious pumpkin 'super bowl' for the third time!
The brother and sister team of Ron and Karen Root from Citrus Heights, CA took home $2,000 USD for their 1,806-pound gourd. The third prize of $1,500 USD was awarded to Jack Laraue of Terino, WA who submitted a 1,685-pound giant. The biggest 'Coastside Pumpkin' award went to Geroge Armanino of Pescadero, CA while Eric Carlson of Portola Valley, CA received the audience vote for growing the most beautiful pumpkin. Both went home with $500 USD.
John Hawkley, who set a new North American record in 2014 with a 2,058-pound pumpkin, was unable to repeat his magic this year. While his 1,447-pound pumpkin would have indeed won accolades at other competitions, it was not impressive enough for the 'Super Bowl' of weigh-offs. The Napa, CA, grower blamed the 'smaller' size on the State's severe drought conditions.
While the winners were allowed to return home, their giant produce remained behind. The top five gourds will be on display for the thousands of visitors to Half Moon Bay's famous Art and Pumpkin Festival that takes place this coming weekend on October 17th and 18th. If you happen to live in the area, be sure to visit and let us know what the magnificent 'Super Bowl' winners look like up-close!