Thursday , October 02, 2014 - 2:35 PM
LEHI — Mountain Green resident Matt McConkie was smiling wide as he broke the state record at the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers weigh-off at Thanksgiving Point. Measuring in at 1,731 pounds, this massive fruit eclipsed his previous record of 1,600 pounds in 2011.
Gigantic pumpkin gardening is a growing obsession for many families who brought their largest specimens to the scales under torrential rains on Saturday. Forty-five heavyweights from Utah and Idaho were ranked to determine the biggest in 2014. An enthusiastic crowd cheered as scales revealed each official weight. After 25 years of competitions, Utah is now being recognized as a top growing area, with more monsters hitting the scales than anywhere else.
Good seed, good soil, hard work and luck all contribute to massive fruit size. Gardeners add tons of organic matter to the soil, battle bugs and diseases, in addition to taking measures to make their plants comfortable in Utah's harsh climate. Shade cloth, greenhouses and misting systems are used by top competitors, in addition to automatic watering and feeding systems. Some growers say they even sing to their pumpkins as they tuck them under blankets each evening. Under the right conditions, some fruits can gain 50 pounds each day, making it exciting to measure their daily progress.
McConkie commented, “Win or lose ... it is fun to grow them.”
His pumpkin came in 10 percent heavier than estimated. McConkie also claimed state records in 2010 and 2011. Six other Utah pumpkins weighed in at over 1,000 pounds this year.
Place Weight Grower Grower City 1. 1,731 lbs. Matt McConkie Mountain Green 2. 1,386.5 lbs. Mohamed Sadiq Ogden 3. 1,246 lbs. Andrew Israelson Taylorsville 4. 1,204 lbs. Ross Bowman Taylorsville E 1,171 lbs. Ross Bowman Brigham City E 1,078 lbs. Ross Bowman Brigham City
Ross Bowman's smaller pumpkins were weighed for exhibition purposes only. Specimens with cracks or soft spots are disqualified from official rankings. What do growers do with super-sized produce? Beyond elaborate Halloween carving, community outreach is a big part of Utah's Giant Pumpkin Growers. They bring their prize pumpkins to a number of events for educational and charitable purposes. Some giants were donated to a recent Road Home fundraiser while others will be used to feed zoo animals at Hogle Zoo's “Feast with the Beast.” Hee Haw Farms will raise funds for the March of Dimes October 25th as part of their sixth annual Ginormous Pumpkin Drop.
Spectators can also look forward to the annual Pumpkin Regatta at Sugar House Park Pond Oct. 18. Growers wearing costumes will carve pumpkins into watercraft and race to break a new speed record. This summer, Kyle Fox, president of the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers, along with friends and family, rode the the Colorado River rapids near Moab in a pumpkin. One fruit grew too fast and developed a crack, preventing it from being part of the Thanksgiving Point event.
Prior to the weigh-off, the world sneak preview of Rise of the Giants screened at several theaters in Utah County. The documentary followed pumpkin enthusiasts throughout the country including many top growers in Utah. A DVD with extended footage and growing tips is now available for pre-order and can be purchased at http://www.riseofthegiantsmovie.com. Anyone interested in growing colossal produce is invited to join the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers.
Annual dues are $25, which includes registration for next year's weigh-off, newsletters and free seeds from Utah's top ranked pumpkins. For more information visit http://www.utahpumpkingrowers.com.
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