Pumpkin weighing 1,066kg wins California contest

HALF MOON BAY, California (AP) — Being cooped up at home due to the pandemic paid handsomely for a Minnesota horticulture teacher who used the extra time to constantly water and feed a massive pumpkin that won this year’s Half Moon Bay pumpkin contest.

Travis Gienger, of Anoka, Minnesota, in the United States (US) spent a lot of his free time in the pumpkin patch in his backyard, watering his plants up to 10 times a day and feeding and fertilising them at least twice each day. Gienger, 40, then drove his gargantuan gourd for 35 hours to see his hard work pay off at the 47th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, where his winner came in at 1,066 kilogrammes.

“It was nerve-wracking because with every bump on the road I kept thinking, ‘Is it going to make it?’” And then finally it got weighed, it was the last one, and oh, my gosh, it’s been incredible!” Gienger said.

Gienger, a landscape and horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College, has been growing pumpkins since he was a teenager, inspired by his father who also grew them.

It was his first time competing at the Half Moon Bay weigh-off but he’s not sure he’ll be back next year.

“I might need a year off from the work and the nerves and everything,” he said, laughing.

The first-time pumpkin champ won USD16,450, for the lumpy, orange pumpkin that will be showcased during a parade through Half Moon Bay on Monday. Gienger’s pumpkin was the second-heaviest ever weighed at the 40-year-old California event, but it was still far from a US record. That was set in 2018 when a grower in New Hampshire produced a pumpkin weighing more than 1,134 kilogrammes.

The record for the heaviest pumpkin in the world was set in 2016 at the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Ludwigsburg, Germany. A Belgium grower’s winning whopper came in at just over 1,179 kilogrammes.

Travis Gienger stands next to his pumpkin. PHOTO: AP