2003 Half Moon Bay
Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off
Just a year after being unseated by Kirk Mombert, Steve Daletas of
Pleasant Hill, Oregon has once again grown the largest pumpkin for a win at
the Half Moon Bay Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off, with a whopping 1,180 pound
monster Atlantic Giant. Steve's entry sets a new Half Moon Bay record for the
largest pumpkin ever in that competition, besting the previous record held by
Kirk Mombert by seven pounds.
It's not the biggest pumpkin Steve's ever grown though. On October 7th,
Steve captured both a first place and the world's record for the heaviest
pumpkin with a 1,385 lb pumpkin at the Canby Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off in
This year's Half Moon Bay competition featured 58 entries (up from 51 last
year) with a grand total of 29,150 pounds of pumpkin with an average weight
of 503 pounds. Amazingly there were six pumpkins with weights over the golden
1,000 lb mark. This is up two from last year's four entries over 1,000 lbs.
For years growers dreamed of breaking the 1,000 lb barrier. It is now
virtually required if you want to be competitive at competitions.
Most growers have a secret compost or fertilizer they swear by to produce
these gargantuan pumpkins, but Steve assures us this isn't the case with him.
The key to growing a prize winning pumpkin is "just good soil and plenty
of water." He admitted to the crowd of reporters after the competition
that he rarely fertilizes but he'll spend all day from sunrise to sunset out
in the patch weeding and pollinating.
Competition organizers try to weigh the pumpkins in order of what they
expect the weights will be. Proving that it's more difficult to judge a
pumpkin's weight by its measurements than the judges would like, for the
second time in as many years, the heaviest pumpkin has not been the one with
the best height and circumference. This lead to a slightly anti-climactic
moment at the end of the competition when the last pumpkin weighed came in 46
pounds shy of the leader that was weighed just prior. While competition
officials are pretty good at roughly estimating the winner based on the
dimensions, their job is made difficult because pumpkin genetics cause some
to grow thicker flesh than others and pumpkins can lose six pounds or more
per day once they have been cut from the vine due to evaporation.
While this evaporation would normally leave distant competitors at a
disadvantage most growers cover their pumpkin with blankets and attach water
filled bags or bottles to the stems of their pumpkins so that any water lost
to evaporation can be reintroduced through the stem. Shellie Cramer from
Rochester, Washington, who came in 3rd place with a 1,107 pound Atlantic
Giant, bagged her pumpkin with a mixture of water and orange Gatorade.
Shellie had always wondered if the pumpkin actually took up water from this
procedure and said she was amazed to watch an orange streak come up through
the stem as the pumpkin absorbed fluid from the sweet concoction.
Compared to previous years, the weather was quite good for this year's
competition. Not too cold and the sun came out early. This seems to have
lifted the spirits of the competitors and audience and caused jokes to fly.
When Victor Fredrick from Woodside, who entered a 286 pounder was asked,
"What else do they raise in Woodside besides pumpkins?" Victor
quickly and effortlessly quipped, "Idiots!".
New this year, the spectators voted for the "Most Beautiful
Pumpkin" in the competition. Paul Rys of San Luis Obispo won the
competition easily with a shiny and brilliant orange 514 pounder. Paul has
been doing genetic experiments to bring beauty to the large pumpkins that
have traditionally been lacking in the deep orange color so common in smaller
varieties. We hope his $500 prize will help him with his experiments so
that others can have giant pumpkins as attractive as his.
Congratulations must be given to all of this year's entrants. There were
many fine pumpkins. James Martin of Hayward won for the heaviest pumpkin
grown in California with a 1,064 lb pumpkin. This gave him a tie for fourth
place overall with Jim Sherwood of Mulino, Oregon, who's pumpkin also weighed
1,064 lbs. In third place overall was Shellie Cramer of Rochester, Washington
with a huge 1,107 lb Atlantic Giant. Shellie should have also gotten a
happiest just to be there award. Rarely have we seen somebody so genuinely
happy. Shellie was all smiles as her pumpkin hit the scales and broke the
1,000 lb barrier. Joel Holland of Sumner, Washington landed second place with
his 1,134 pounder.
With so many out of state winners it was nice to see some locals showing
in the competition. Winning for the heaviest pumpkin in San Mateo County and
Coastside was Jerome Valladao of Half Moon Bay with a 536 lb pumpkin. Coming
in second and third respectively, John "Farmer John" Muller (517
lbs) and his wife Eda Muller (485 lbs).
Special congratulations go out to Steve Daletas for both his win here in
Half Moon Bay and for his tremendous win in Oregon. We just hope next year
he'll break a world record in Half Moon Bay. After all, it IS The Pumpkin
Capital of the World!
Steve's pumpkin can be seen at the upcoming Half Moon Bay Art and
Pumpkin Festival where it will ride a specially constructed float and be
put on display for people to have their pictures taken with.