Pumpkins certainly aren’t one-size-fits-all: They come in a range of sizes, colors, and shapes, each with different advantages and purposes. Small and medium-sized pumpkins are ideal for carving jack-o-lanterns, for example, while giant pumpkins (sometimes called gourds) are made for the stage. These massive gourds particularly shine in pumpkin-weighing contests, during which growers show off their homegrown fruits that tip the scales at hundreds or even thousands of pounds. Here are four nationwide competitions where some of the largest pumpkins were on display this fall.
1. The 56th Morton Pumpkin Festival Weigh-Off Competition
This year’s Morton Pumpkin Festival (located in the pumpkin capital of the world, in the state of Illinois) kicked off with their giant pumpkin weigh-off. Jeremy Cook’s 993.5-pound pumpkin won the top prize for largest overall gourd; five years ago, he decided to “start fooling around” with growing large pumpkins and is now involving his kids in the process. “The last two years we’ve gotten a little more serious,” he told WCBU. “This year I grew some seeds purchased from (breeder) Mark Clements of Michigan. His 450 Clements seed and some added genetics came from parents of 1,800 and 1,700 pound pumpkins.” Watch the video below to get the full pumpkin competition story.
2. The 49th Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
This year’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, CA saw Travis Gienger earn the top spot with his 2,560-pound gourd. According to organizers, it sets a new US record for heaviest pumpkin. Gienger, a teacher, drove 2,000 miles from Anoka, MN with this huge pumpkin in tow. “In times like that, people gravitate toward things that bring them a smile on their face,” Tim Beeman, a spokesman for the weigh-off, told NPR. “People derive that from pumpkins — whether it’s carving a pumpkin or eating pumpkin pie or seeing a 2,500-pound pumpkin wheeled in on a forklift.”
3. The 38th Annual All New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off
Jamie Graham of Tyngsboro, MA, broke the Topfield Fair’s all-time record for heaviest pumpkin with a 2,480-pound gourd aptly named Big Swipe. “It was such a surreal moment. Intense, emotional and amazing,” Graham said an interview with TODAY. Following Graham’s victory in early October, he turned Big Swipe into a viral sensation on Tiktok (@bigpumpki) by showing the ins and outs of his gigantic gourd. He’s also giving away the seeds to other large pumpkin growers in his area. “Hopefully, they’ll grow into a big pumpkin for someone or for me again. I’ll probably grow it next year as well,” he adds.
4. The 28th Annual Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival
After a two-year break, the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival returned in early October with Jose Ceja winning their giant pumpkin contest. The Napa County, CA grower beat the competition with a pumpkin weighing 1,886 pounds. His secret to success? “A lot of luck,” he told The Sacramento Bee. Ceja’s gourd also drew attention from curious festival attendees who admired his hard work and dedication. “Those people, they have a smile because we did something for half of the year,” he notes. “That to me has a lot of value.”