2008 Half Moon Bay
World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
Lightning struck twice for Thad Starr of Pleasant Hill, Oregon as he won the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off for the second year in a row. His pumpkin weighed in at a whopping 1,528 lbs, just four pounds heavier than his winning pumpkin from last year's competition, but a very respectable 124 lbs heavier than the nearest competition.
Starr, who only has been growing pumpkins competitively for three years now will take home $6 per pound or nearly $9,200 in prize money and will, along with his wife, two children, and gargantuan gourd, ride a float in the upcoming Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival's parade.
When asked if he thought there was something in the soil where he lives that makes the pumpkins grow so big, Starr said, "There's got to be something about the soil. Steve Daletas grows big ones too." Daletas is well known in the pumpkin growing community, having set many records, and winning the Half Moon Bay competition twice before.
We had high hopes that someone at this year's Half Moon Bay contest would break the California record set by Canadian, Jake van Kooten at the Elk Grove competition last week. His pumpkin weighed 1,536.5 lbs and broke the previous record by a single pound. Sadly, this was not to be, but Thad's 1,528 lbs was good enough to set another record for the heaviest ever weighed at the Half Moon Bay competition.
The field was slightly larger this year with 62 pumpkins up from 59 last year, but the competition was dominated by a few veteran growers. The top seven finishers were the only ones to break the 1,000 lb barrier and weights were generally down from last year.
With a personal best, second place was captured by long-time Bay Area grower, Leonardo Urena from Napa. His pumpkin weighed in at 1,404 lbs and measured 4' 9" tall and 13' 7" in circumference. Urena was so proud of his pumpkin he couldn't take his hand off it as he proudly posed just before the official weight was read. This resulted in some good natured scolding from the officials and the crowd because his hand was adding several pounds to the scale's reading. While his pumpkin weighed in short of the overall first place, Urena did grow the heaviest pumpkin from California in the weigh-off which comes with an extra $1,000 in prize money for a total win of $2,000.
Five-time previous champ, Joel Holland of Sumner, Washington, squeaked into a third place finish this year with a 1,262 lb pumpkin. Growing conditions in Washington weren't as good this year compared to last when he came in second with a pumpkin 122 lbs heavier. Holland's pumpkin was 4' 1" tall and 13' 11" around. For his third place finish Holland will take $1,500 in prize money back with him to Washington.
Another long-time grower and perennial top 10 finisher, Jim Sherwood of Mulino, Oregon, just narrowly missed third, taking fourth with a 1,260 lb giant. Sherwood's pumpkin was also lighter this year over last by 83 lbs. At 4' 11" tall and 12' 7" in circumference, Sherwood's pumpkin looked fit and heavy and everyone assumed it would be much heavier than Holland's. As is typical of pumpkins, looks can be deceiving and Sherwood's pumpkin pulled in just two pounds shy, finishing behind Holland for the second year in a row. The $1,000 fourth place prize should help consol him on the drive back to Oregon.
Rounding out the top five was Ukiah grower Ben Fillmore. Fillmore produced a very attractive 1,205 lb pumpkin. This was his first entry into the prestigious Half Moon Bay event but Fillmore is no stranger to competition, having won his home town's weigh-off earlier this year with a 1,109 pounder. Ben and the rest of the top 10 finishers will each take home $500 in prize money.
The last of the contestants to break the 1,000 lb barrier were Napa residents Lee Hudson and Pete Glasier who took sixth and seventh respectively. Hudson's 1,168 lb pumpkin was good for sixth place, up 109 lbs and 4 places from his debut last year. Glasier, who tied Joel Holland to win the competition in 1994, came in seventh with his 1,081 lb pumpkin.
In a close race for 8th place, David Millar of Cazadero, California, just barely pulled ahead of veteran competitors Jack and Sherry LaRue of Tenino, Washington, with 913 to their 912 lbs.
Ronald Root of Citrus Heights, California, completed the top 10 with a fine 905 pounder.
Competitive Half Moon Bay couple John "Farmer John" Muller and his wife Eda continued their personal competition to see who could grow the biggest pumpkin. For the second year in a row John pulled ahead of his wife. John's 900 lb beauty was a personal best and claimed the prize for not only the largest pumpkin grown on the coastside but the largest in San Mateo County and the largest by a Farm Bureau member. Eda's 834 lb pumpkin came in second in the San Mateo County division. Together they will take home $1,800 in prize money. Both of their pumpkins and their interesting experiments in growing gourds in bottles, will be on display at Farmer John's Pumpkin Patch in Half Moon Bay through Halloween.
Lorraine Valladao, also of Half Moon Bay, completed the San Mateo County division with a lovely 523 lb pumpkin.
The competition was once again fierce for the title of Most Beautiful Pumpkin. For expediency, competition officials narrow down the field prior to the audience vote. Some growers felt their pumpkins were as pretty if not prettier than some of those that made the final cut, leaving them disappointed with the official's ruling. We saw some of the pumpkins cut from the competition and we agree they were mighty pretty. However, we also agree the audience voted for the right pumpkin when they chose Jerry Porter of Salinas' wonderfully cheery orange giant. Porter will take home $500 in prize money for this gem of a pumpkin.
Congratulations must once again be given to all of this year's entrants. There were many fine pumpkins and every single pumpkin was a worthy gardening and artistic achievement.
The five largest pumpkins can be seen at the upcoming 2008 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival on October 18 and 19, 9 am - 5 pm. Thad Starr's winning pumpkin will ride a specially constructed float during the opening parade and then will be put on display with the four runners-up for people to have their pictures taken with.