COLLINS, N.Y. (AP) _ The great pumpkin rose this year from a patch in New Jersey, where Robert and Edward Gancarz take gourd growing seriously.
A record-breaking 671-pounder beat the pulp out of the competition at the sixth annual World Pumpkin Confederation Weigh-off here Monday, while a rival contest headquartered in California was won by a 548-pound fruit.
Robert Gancarz, 36, of Jacobstown, N.J., won $4,000 for the giant that measured 12 feet, 11 inches around and eclipsed his brother Edward’s entry - a 618.5-pounder that took second place. But Edward Gancarz, 40, squelched his brother in the squash competition with a record 595.5-pounder. Robert raised the second-largest squash at 562.5 pounds.
Third place went to 16-year-old Alan Nesbitt of Conesus, N.Y., who grew a 579.5-pound pumpkin on his first attempt.
″He said it was total luck, but he was always calling me for tips,″ said weigh-off sponsor Ray Waterman, who operates the contest out of his restaurant in Collins, N.Y.
Weigh stations for the World Pumpkin Confederation contest were set up here and in ten other locations in the United States, Canada, Wales, Italy, New Zealand and Australia. More than 40 growers took part.
The previous pumpkin record of 612 pounds was set in 1984 in the International Pumpkin Association competition, which claims to be the original. Headquartered in Half Moon Bay, Calif., it awarded its top honors Monday to a Canadian for the fourth time in the contest’s five years.
Edgar Van Wyck, a retired farmer from Manitoba had flown his ponderous pumpkin to Halifax, Nova Scotia, one of four weigh stations for that contest.
While the competition in Collins was low-key, the 250 people attending the event were as knowledgeable as those watching a thoroughbred auction. It took a 481.5-pound pumpkin to elicit applause. Silence greeted a 454.5-pounder.
″Everybody says this is just fun, this is just games,″ said Robert Gancarz. ″But this is serious, this is nothing like fun and games.″
Indeed, as competitors and admirers surrounded the mutant-looking gourds, the Gancarzes’ hired hands served as bodyguards to keep anyone from defiling the entries. Competitors asked if the brothers were selling seed from the genetic giants, but they said they did not thinks so.
″We’ve been at this for 22 years,″ said Robert. ″Then, we just put them out in the field. Now we fumigate the soil, irrigate, fertilize. Ten years from now people are saying we could be at 1,000 pounds.″
The pumpkins, which require as many as 12 men to move them from forklift to truck scale, are so big that they grow flat on one side and each ridge is wider than a man’s foot.
The Gancarz brothers figure they spent $2,500 raising giant pumpkins on three of the 275 acres they farm with their father.
Growing giant pumpkins dates to 1900 when William Warnock, of Goodrich, Ontario, sent a 400-pound specimen to the Paris World’s Fair.
″They start out looking like flat inner tubes and start rising,″ said Tom Cone of Andover, a schoolteacher and veteran pumpkin grower whose entry weighed a mere 446 pounds. ″It’s kind of a crazy, frivolous summer habit.″