Every October, farmers across the US harvest millions of pumpkins. Some make it to the dinner table in the form of delicious soups or pies, while others get transformed into scary Halloween monsters. Then there are the select few whose only purpose is to win contests like the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off held annually in Half Moon Bay, CA – the self-proclaimed “World Pumpkin Capital.”
Celebrating its 45th year, the contest, often dubbed the “Super Bowl” of pumpkin weigh-offs, has always been extremely popular with pumpkin growers. However, it has become even more so since supermarket chain Safeway, which sponsors the event, increased the maximum prize to $30,000 in 2015. To qualify for this “World Record Prize,” competitors have to produce a “World Record pumpkin.” This year, that meant one heavier than the gargantuan 2,624-pound pumpkin, which broke the previous world record at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in 2016. If the heaviest pumpkin weighs less, the owner receives $7 per pound, which, given the size of the gourds, adds up to thousands of dollars in cash.
This year’s event, which took place on October 8, 2018, attracted more than 20 beefy pumpkins. Thousands of spectators cheered as the gorgeous fruits were carefully placed on the digital weighing scale with the help of forklifts. Though 12 came in at more than 1,000 pounds each, it was three-time winner Steven Daletas who took home the top prize of $15,190, and the coveted Mel Mello Sr. Grand Champion Growers jacket, for his 2,170-pound, pale orange gourd.
The retired airline pilot from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, who grows pumpkins as a hobby, attributed his success to one special pumpkin seed, lots of loving care, and abundant sunshine. Though his pumpkin was the second-heaviest ever weighed at the Half Moon Bay event, it was no match for the 2,528-pound pumpkin, which set a new American record at a weigh-off in New Hampshire in September 2018.
Josiah Brandt from Rudolf, WI, whose 2,136 pounder was the second heaviest, went home with $2000. Napa Valley, CA resident Ruben Frias’s 1,805 pound behemoth, which was the third heaviest overall and the heaviest one from California, netted him a total of $2,500. For the second consecutive year, George Armanino of Pescadero, CA took home $500 for the “Biggest Coastside Pumpkin.” The people’s choice $500 award for the “Most Beautiful Pumpkin” went to Eric Carlson from Portola Valley, CA.
Those unable to attend the competition will be able to admire the four heaviest pumpkins at Half Moon Bay’s two-day Art and Pumpkin Festival on October 13 and 14. Following the event, Daletas plans to load the masterpiece on to his truck and take it back to Oregon, where it will be displayed in front of his house.
Resources: miramarevents.com, sfgate.com