Oh My Gourd!

Alexandria Stewart, Journalist

All over the world, there is a fascination with growing the biggest produce, pumpkins being one of them. Every year, Safeway holds a “Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Festival” in many locations around the US. This festival brings many people together during a time of Halloween festivities and it seems to be a big hit. 

History is a huge part of getting to know the Safeway event and where it came from. It all started with a man named Henry David Thoreau who, in 1857, grew an abnormally large pumpkin, weighing 123 pounds, future farmers found out about Thoreau’s large pumpkin and wanted to give the competition a try. When farmer William Warnock grew a pumpkin in 1893 weighing 365 pounds, he took it to the Chicago World’s Fair. Years down the line, Warnock beat his records and set the bar for those wanting to challenge his work. His records were easily broken as agriculture got more advanced and farmers got smarter with their farming techniques. When more and more people decided to try to beat each other’s records, the many pumpkin growing contests were born.

The RMGVG (Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers) started here in Colorado from a horrific hail storm in 2006 that destroyed farmer Gary Grande’s prize pumpkin plant. Grande was in charge of his large vegetable growing club and asked for those all-around to help him get more growers to compete because all of his pumpkins had been destroyed. This led the club to grow tremendously. In 2016 the organization was handed to a group of individuals who created RMGVG.

For those who are unfamiliar with this kind of event, a large group of farmers and anyone capable of growing and transporting a massive pumpkin, meet at a certain location to compete in a weigh-off and play some fall-themed games. It may seem strange for a large group to get together and compete in such contests, but Andrew Pilger, Vice President of the Rocky Mountain Great Vegetable Growers, states, “As far as interest in the hobby, the best way to say it, is it’s a ‘sport’; always trying to beat our own personal records and of course win the top ribbon and prize money.” 

Money and pride are huge parts of the competition. People try to top their old scores, top others’ scores, and try to get the best score. Humans are competitive and love to win, and farmers are no different. They will go to extremes to get the perfect pumpkin. Pilger describes the ingredients for the best pumpkin to be “good seed, good soil, good weather, and good luck.” Many recurring contestants use seeds from their past pumpkin to try to improve its integrity, strength and start from a genetically larger pumpkin for a better advantage. 

The prizing system varies at different locations. Non-members of the RMGVG program have to pay a $10 fee for each item weighed while members get any item weighed for free. To become a member, you pay a $21 fee for the year. Shirts and hoodies are being sold at each location too, ranging from 10-40 dollars each. 

Jared’s 16th Annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Festival, in Littleton, Colorado, was on September 25th, 2021. The prizes featured 1st place winning $2,500, 2nd winning $1,000, third-$500, and so on. Places 6th-10th won a $25 RMGVG gift card in which you can purchase things at the festival, like RMGVG merchandise, etc. The festival entailed a kid’s maze, bouncy castle, corn pit, food trucks, fresh roasted chili, and pumpkin crane drop. This is one of many events that are all right here in Colorado! The prize amount is different for each event, along with their other activities that are a part of the festival. 

Growing any vegetable in a competition of any kind takes hard work, persistence, and collaboration. Growing pumpkins is something that people all over the world partake in to further enjoy the season and the holiday we know as Halloween. Pumpkins in many ways can bring people together to have a fun time and be with loved ones, especially during the holidays. On the other hand, pumpkins can bring out the true competitiveness of a great farmer. Do you have what it takes to grow the biggest pumpkin?