2013 Half Moon Bay
World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
The heaviest pumpkin ever weighed at the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off tipped the scales on Oct. 14, 2013, at 1,985 lbs, grown by Gary Miler of Napa, CA.
Just two days before, a new world record was set at the 23rd annual Uesugi Farms Pumpkin Park Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off. Tim Mathison, also of Napa, squashed the competition with an Atlantic Giant pumpkin weighing in at an astonishing 2,032 lbs. An impressive feat for anyone but made moreso when you realize that this is only Mathison's fourth year growing pumpkins.
Mathison entered a second pumpkin in the Half Moon Bay competition and hopes were high that it would set an even bigger record but that was not to be thanks to long time grower, competitor, and neighbor Miller, who handily bested all comers!
Miller has been growing pumpkins for 20 years and is a long-time Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off competitor. Miller frequently places in the top 10, he placed 8th last year, but has never before won the competition. While his pumpkin wasn't heavy enough to break the world record set by Mathison, it has the distinction of being the second heaviest pumpkin weighed this year worldwide.
While many gave Miller some good natured ribbing on his rather stoic demeanor after learning he won, Miller had this to say, “I had a hard time keeping from crying. My heart was going 100 miles an hour. Pretty damn neat.” When asked if he ever thought he’d take home the title he said, “Every time I go to sleep I figure I’m going to get there. Because I’m dreaming about it.” Noting that the heaviest pumpkins this year come from Napa, Miller said, “It’s probably our weather. I think we have the best wine in the world so why wouldn’t we be able to make the biggest pumpkins in the world? We’ve got the biggest and second biggest in the world this year, all from Napa.” Miller said the secret to growing a giant pumpkin is, “Just having everything right. The soil, your fertilization program…taking good care of it. And there’s nothing as important as the seeds. If you don’t have the right seed you can have everything else and it still won’t be a contender.”
Miller likes to keep busy in the garden. “I don’t have an off-time. I do landscape design work. I’m growing something all the time it seems like,” he said. Asked if he grows grapes, Miller said, “I have some fantastic cab that grows on my little farm. I haven’t even been able to pick all my grapes. And they’re ready!”
When asked what he’s going to do with his pumpkin, Miller laughed, “Well I’m not going to make pies out of it.” The pumpkin will be on the float, along with Miller’s grandkids and son and daughter-in law at the Oct. 19-20, 2013, Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Miller and Mathison, won't be in attendance, as they will be enjoying a trip to New York courtesy of The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.
For his amazing agricultural feat, Miller will take home the grand prize of $6 per pound, amounting to $11,910, plus a special $1,000 prize for growing the heaviest pumpkin from California weighed at Half Moon Bay.
Mathison, who came in 6th in last year's competition, took 2nd place with a 1,894 lb pumpkin. Its measurements were strong but the weight was weak, crushing everyone's high hopes for another record breaker. If it had been grown in any previous year it would have won hands down, but the competition was excellent this year with all of the top five above the 3/4 ton mark. Second place was worth $2,000 for Mathison.
2011's champion, Leonardo Urena of Napa, took 3rd place and its $1,500 prize with a 1,592 lb pumpkin. Urena has been coming to the competition for 7 years. This year's entry was quite a bit smaller than the 1,704 lb pumpkin he won with in 2011 but he said he would be happy if his pumpkin weighed in at 1,500 lbs. He was quite pleased with the almost 100 extra pounds.
For the second year in a row Russ Pugh of Santa Rosa placed 4th with a 1,578 lb pumpkin. While his place didn't improve, this year's pumpkin weighed 130 lbs more than last year, earning him $1,000 in prize money.
Following close behind Pugh, another Santa Rosan, Russ Pingrey, took 5th place and $500 with his 1,521 lb pumpkin. This is Pingrey's third trip to the competition. In his first two years he won 2nd and 4th places, respectively.
The furthest afield competitor, Ian Sigman of Petrolia, CA, offered up a freshman effort to be proud of, growing a magnificent 1,192 lb pumpkin that captured 6th place and a $500 prize. His pumpkin had the added distinction of being the only one to flop off all sides of the official scale!
Hot on Sigman's heels was veteran competitor, Brock Torresdal of Emerald Hills, CA. Last year Torresdal came in 14th with an 817 lb pumpkin. This year's entry weighed in 312 lbs heavier for a very respectable 1,129 lbs, good for 7th place and a $500 prize.
In a friendly fight for 8th place, Eda Muller of Half Moon Bay bested her shocked husband, John Muller, by exactly 40 lbs giving her 1,104 lb pumpkin 8th place overall and also the title of the heaviest pumpkin grown in Half Moon Bay! Each comes with a $500 prize. The Mullers, operators of "Farmer John's Pumpkins" in Half Moon Bay, have had a friendly competition going for many years now and with her new personal best Eda Muller may finally have the bragging rights necessary to take the title of "Farmer" away from her husband. Farmer Eda, anyone?
Ninth place of course went to John "Farmer John" Muller for his 1,064 lb pumpkin. We expect that he'll soon claim his duties as Vice Mayor of Half Moon Bay interferred with his pumpkin's growth and it will be necessarry to have a rematch with his wife next year.
Both Eda and John's pumpkins can be seen at their pumpkin patch, Farmer John's Pumpkins, on Highway 1 in Half Moon Bay.
Rounding out the top 10, Angela Costanzo of Emerald Hills took the final $500 prize for her 950 lb pumpkin and in the process beat her 16th place rival, her dad, Angelo, by 439 lbs. All of the Costanzo's pumpkins will have places of honor in the Emerald Hills haunted house through the end of the month.
Finally, in the "Most Beautiful" pumpkin competition, Vince Zunino of Los Altos beat out John Szabo and Suzanne and Chris Kasso with an absolutely beautiful 377 lb pumpkin named "Princess Peach" that seemed almost dainty in this competition of brutish giants. Zunino has been coming to the competition for 12 years and "Princess Peach" was grown on a 400 sq ft vine that obviously focused on a quality not quantity approach to pumpkin production.
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 2013 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival on October 19 and 20, 2013, 9 am-5 pm. Miller’s winning pumpkin will ride a specially constructed float during the opening parade at noon on the 19th, and then will be put on display with the four runners-up for people to have their pictures taken with.