HALF MOON BAY, Calif.—Immense pumpkins waited in trucks and on trailers for their turn at the scale, with only the heaviest to be declared the champion.
The 47th annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off was held at Long Branch Saloon & Farms in Half Moon Bay, California, on Oct. 12. Due to the CCP virus, the event wasn’t open to the public this year, but was live-streamed.
Travis Gienger, champion with his 2,350-pound gourd, hails from Anoka, Minnesota. He planted what would grow into the prized behemoth on April 11 and named it Tiger King.
“It was the most nerve-racking thing ever. Because you just don’t know,” Gienger told The Epoch Times. “You just hope it’s not a balloon that you put on the scale and it goes super light. It went what it was supposed to, so I’m happy.”
He’s participated in other pumpkin weigh-offs, but this was his first time participating at the weigh-off in Half Moon Bay. He and three others took turns driving the 35-hour journey from the “Halloween Capital of the World” to the “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
Anoka became known as the Halloween Capital of the World when it started its annual Halloween parade in 1920, believed to be the first such parade in the country. The parade, which continues today, draws people from around the Midwest.
Half Moon Bay is often called the Pumpkin Capital of the World for producing 3,000 tons of pumpkins every year by local growers. Morton, Illinois, also holds this title for producing the majority of the world’s canned pumpkin.
Gienger said he grows two pumpkins a year, and he doesn’t mind sharing his tricks for growing them to that size.
“I’ve got pretty good soil back home. I’ve been modifying for quite a few years, and sometimes water eight to 10 times a day. At its max, it was growing 53 pounds a day, put on 1,000 pounds in 20 days.”
He said good genetics played a large role. He bought the seed in Barnesville, Ohio, for $80. That seed originally came from a 1,500-pounder from Wisconsin.
Gienger was the only grower to bring soil with the pumpkin to the weigh-off.
“It was dual-purpose. It kept the vines wet and then it also stabilized the load a little bit.”
The pumpkin was transported on a pallet in a trailer, wrapped in blankets and tarps.
His immense gourd will go to the New York Botanical Garden for exhibition.
Steve Daletas, from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, took second place with a 2,174-pound pumpkin, just a pound shy of last year’s 2,175-pound winner.
He has been coming to the event for more than 20 years, and has been champion four times—in 2001, 2003, 2015, and 2018.
“Pumpkins keep getting bigger, so we have to get creative to get it in the truck. That’s a good problem to have,” Daletas told The Epoch Times.
He planted his pumpkin in early April and it gained about 43 pounds per day at its max.
The pandemic made it difficult and different for everyone.
“Growing, not knowing if a weigh-off is going to happen, was different. But we really appreciate what Half Moon Bay did. They never gave up on us. They always gave us hope that if we can make this weigh-off happen, we will,” Daletas said. “What they’ve done is incredible. I think it gave all of us people hope that we can get through this.”
He enjoys the process and results.
“You’re always competing against yourself, trying to figure out what can I do better,” he said. “At the end of the season, you get to come to see your friends and compare pumpkins.”
Daletas plans to give the pumpkin to his daughter.
Jose Ceja, from Napa, California, took third with a 1,957-pounder. Last year’s champion, Leonardo Urena, also from Napa, took fourth place this year with a 1,940-pounder.
The champion is awarded $7 per pound, giving Gienger $16,450. The second-place finisher receives $3,000, third place $2,500, and fourth $2,000.
The award for the most beautiful pumpkin went to Eric Carlson from Portola Valley, California.