2014 Half Moon Bay
World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
Last year we saw the heaviest pumpkin ever weighed at the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off tip the scale at an amazing 1,985 lbs. This year a new Half Moon Bay, California, and North American record was set all at once by the new champion, John Hawkley of Napa, CA. Hawkley's pumpkin overflowed the scale platform, crushing it to the tune of 2,058 lbs! This was the first time a pumpkin weighed in at over one ton at the Half Moon Bay Weigh-off.
Many had feared that the drought would significantly affect the pumpkins at this year's competition and the growers admitted to being more selective with their pumpkins, choosing to take their chances and grow fewer pumpkins in an effort to save water and focus their resources on the remaining fruit. This gamble paid off for some and left others hoping for more rain and fewer hungry deer next year.
John Hawkley was one of the lucky ones. Hawkley gave credit to his wife as his growing partner, many hours of daily pampering (including missed weekends and days off work), and Napa's warm weather, which made for a productive growing season. Hawkley said he played around with water and fertilizer schedules until he found one that the vine responded to positively and then he stuck with that for the rest of the season. Hawkley has only been growing pumpkins for 6 years. He has entered the Half Moon Bay competition three times coming in as high as third place but this is his first win.
For his nature defying efforts, Hawkley will receive $6 per pound or $12,348 for his first place finish plus an additional $1,000 for growing the biggest pumpkin in California. Hawkley said he didn't have plans for the prize money but after reflecting on it said that some of the money will go toward repairs on his chimney that was damaged in the recent Napa earthquake.
While there is no doubt that pumpkin growers are serious competitors, there is also no doubt that the pumpkin growers treat each other like a big family. In that spirit of family, Hawkley told us that he would be sharing seeds from his record setting pumpkin with all the serious growers. You can expect to see the offspring of this massive pumpkin at future weigh-offs.
John Hawkley experienced the thrill of victory but it was Russell Pugh of Santa Rosa who was left to feel the agony of defeat. Pugh grew what would have been the second place pumpkin at 1,828 lbs but had his gourd disqualified when a small rotten patch on the bottom of the pumpkin was discovered. Weigh-Off rules state that, "Specimens must be in healthy and undamaged condition, free of rot, holes, and cracks through the cavity, chemical residue, and soft spots." Pugh's pumpkin, upon inspection and prodding by the judges, leaked juice of a deep orange almost red color as if it had been mortally wounded. This was Pugh's second disqualification for rot in three years.
Several pumpkins were disqualified this year due to holes and early rot including one grown by Mayor John "Farmer John"
Muller, which had a small patch of rot on the bottom and Tom M. of Half Moon Bay whose daughter accidentally shot an arrow into the side of his pumpkin.
Pugh's loss was Robert Globus' of Walnut Grove gain as it opened up second place for Globus' 1,740 lb pumpkin affectionately named, "Godzilla". Globus competed in the 2012 Half Moon Bay competition where he earned 5th place with a 1,442 lb pumpkin. Globus' second place finish earns him $2,000 in prize money and a great deal of satisfaction from growing a pumpkin nearly 300 lbs heavier than his last.
Last year's big winner, Gary Miller of Napa took third place with a 1,393 lb Atlantic Giant pumpkin he affectionately named, "Betty". Betty's third place finish earned Miller $1,500 in prize money.
Dean Busquaert of Napa came up 51 lbs shy of Miller with his 1,342 lb pumpkin taking fourth place and earning $1,000 in prize money.
Rounding out the top 10, fifth place went to Ruben Frias of Napa for his 1,292 lb pumpkin. Sixth place was earned by Russ Pingrey of Santa Rosa for his 1,152 lb pumpkin. Seventh place went to the pumpkin growing team of Brad and Elenore Bordson of Marysville for their 1,088 lb pumpkin. Eighth place was captured by George Armanino of Pescadero whose 811 pounder squashed his 9th place wife, Bonnie Armanino's, 707 lb pumpkin and may have also earned him a spot in the dog house. Tenth place, thanks to the disqualification of John "Farmer John" Muller, went to Randy Warren of Auburn for his 424 lb Atlantic Giant. Fifth through tenth places each receive $500 in prize money.
This year saw some really pretty pumpkins reach the scale. Four were selected for voting though two were clearly capturing the attention of the crowd. Catherine Walker of Napa and Eric Carlson of Portola Valley were the early favorites long before even being weighed and battled it out during a second round of voting by the enthusiastic crowd. In the end, the applause-o-meter chose Carlson's beautifully orange/red-hued pumpkin as the Most Beautiful.
Despite drought, deer, and varmints there were many fine pumpkins grown and entered this year. While no international records were broken we got to see new records for California and North America, which is very impressive indeed. Congratulations go out to all who entered and the often extremely understanding families that make it possible.
The five largest pumpkins can be seen at the upcoming 2014 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival on October 18 and 19, 2014, 9 am-5 pm. Hawkley's winning pumpkin will ride a specially constructed float during the opening parade at noon on the 18th, and then will be put on display with the four runners-up for people to have their pictures taken with.