Monday is the big day for pumpkin growers in Half Moon Bay and from around the world competing in the 39th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off for either the biggest or most beautiful pumpkin.
It’s the official weigh-off day, taking place from 7 to 11 a.m. on the I.D.E.S. Grounds at 735 Main Street in Half Moon Bay.
Using forklifts and harnesses, the monster gourds will be carefully placed on a 5-ton capacity digital scale under the watchful eye of officials from the San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner's Office of Weights, Sealers, and Measures. The public is invited to attend the event and witness the streets around town lined with trucks loaded down with the biggest and most beautiful pumpkins.
Larry Centoni, John Szabo, Silvio Modena, and Farmer John Muller are the Coastside entries this year, although Szabo reports:
“This year my pumpkin split open and rotted about four weeks ago, so I don't have one.”
His advice for pumpkins growers is “to keep in mind when growing, there's always next year,” he said.
Farmer John Muller swears by his “hand of five” when it comes to growing great pumpkins: "seeds, location, skill, weather, and luck," he said.
It’s that combination that Muller hopes will win him the prize for most beautiful pumpkin this year.
“There’s stiff competition this year,” he said. “I heard there’s some really good looking pumpkins coming in from Portola Valley.”
He’s hopeful his prized pumpkin will be a showstopper and is excited to unveil it on Monday. Right now it’s in hiding under a San Francisco World Series Giants blanket.
“I can’t tell you too much more about it or I’ll give away the surprise but let’s say we should call it the World Series of Giant(s) Pumpkin.”
The best-looking pumpkin will win a $500 prize and will be awarded as the “most beautiful pumpkin” judged by the audience based on color, shape and size.
For the biggest pumpkin, event organizers are offering for the first time a $25,000 mega-prize for the world’s first 1-ton pumpkin or $10,000 for a new world record at Half Moon Bay — considered the “Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs.”
Veteran growers will be contending for the coveted title, the $25,000 1-ton/world record prize and thousands of dollars in additional prize money. In a unique pay-by-the-pound system, the winner will take home $6 per pound for the champion mega-pumpkin.
To receive the $25,000 1-ton/world record prize or $10,000 world record prize, the grower must break and hold the 1-ton record and/or world record at the conclusion of the Half Moon Bay weigh-off. If two or more growers happen to break the 1-ton mark and/or world record at Half Moon Bay, the prize money would go to the grower of the heaviest pumpkin.
The current world record is 1,818.5-pounds, grown by Jim & Kelsey Bryson and set at the Prince Edward County Pumpkinfest in Wellington, Ontario Canada in October 2011.
Defending champion Leonardo Urena of Napa, CA, won the competition at last year’s Half Moon Bay weigh-off with his titanic 1,704-pound Atlantic Giant that set a new California record.
The champion pumpkin, along with the top five pumpkins overall, will be on display at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival on October 13-14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on the weigh-off and festival, call 650-726-9652 or visit www.miramarevents.com