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October is pumpkin season in America. For most people, this means eating delicious pumpkin-filled treats or visiting pumpkin patches to pick out the perfect fruit for Halloween. But for pumpkin farmers, it is a chance to showcase their giant produce at pumpkin weigh-offs. Though various such contests are held countrywide, the "Super Bowl" of pumpkin weigh-offs takes place in Half Moon Bay, CA.
The competition, which marked its 49th year on October 10, 2022, has always been popular with master pumpkin growers. However, it has become even more so since the top prize was increased to $30,000 in 2015. To claim the "World Record Prize," contestants must submit a "World Record Pumpkin." This year, that meant a gourd heavier than the massive 2,703-pound pumpkin that set a new world record in Italy in late September 2021. If the heaviest pumpkin weighs less, the owner receives $9 per pound.
This year's winner, a 2,560-pound gourd — nicknamed "Maverick" — was submitted by Travis Gienger from Anoka, MN. Though not a world record contender, it did outweigh the American record holder — a 2,554-pound squash — by six pounds!
The horticulture teacher from Anoka, MN, planted the fruit in April and spent almost six months carefully nurturing its growth. Gienger's daily care routine included fertilizing the soil, checking for roots, and watering the pumpkin. He covered the fruit in plastic during heavy rain and provided shade on hot days. Gienger's efforts were rewarded with a cash prize of $23,040 ($9 a pound)!
The competition's runner-up, Steve Daletas, took home $3,000 with his 2,425-pound entry, while third-place winner Ruben Frias received $2,500 for his 2,118-pound gourd. Other titles included the largest Coastside pumpkin, largest California pumpkin, and most beautiful pumpkin. The winners of each title won $1,000.
This is not Gienger's first time entering — and winning — the competition. In 2020, his 2,350-pound pumpkin also took first place. The 42-year-old then carved this pumpkin — nicknamed "Tiger King" — to earn the Guinness World Record for the largest jack-o-lantern by circumference. Gienger now plans to carve "Maverick" and break his own record.
Resources: miramarevents.com, USAtoday.com, Npr.com