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Though they may not take center stage the rest of the year, pumpkins are the squashy stars of October. Some make an appearance inside popular treats like lattes, cookies, and pies, while others are carved into spooky Halloween jack-o'-lanterns. Then there are the select few whose only purpose is to win pumpkin weigh-off contests. Though numerous such events are held across the US, the "Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs” takes place annually at Half Moon Bay, CA, which prides itself as the “World Pumpkin Capital.”
Now celebrating its 46th year, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off, which took place on October 14, 2019, has always been popular with master pumpkin growers. However, since 2015, even amateurs have joined in the fun to try to earn the $30,000 mega prize. In order to claim the “World Record Prize,” competitors have to submit a “World Record Pumpkin.” Since 2017, that has meant a gourd heavier than the 2,624-pound (1,190-kilogram) pumpkin brought by Mathias Willemijns of Belgium to the Giant Pumpkin European Championship in Ludwigsburg, Germany, on October 9, 2016. But all is not lost if the winning entry is unable to surpass the world record. The owner of the contest's heaviest pumpkin is still awarded a generous $7 per pound which — given the fruit's size — adds up to thousands of dollars in prize money.
This year's first-place winner was grown by Northern California resident Leonardo Urena. Though his 2,175-pound (986-kilogram) mega gourd, which earned him $15,225, was not a world record-breaker, it did set a new state record. It was also the second-largest pumpkin ever submitted in the contest's history.
The 51-year-old winery landscape manager, who took up pumpkin growing as a hobby in 2000, said, "That was my goal. This is my first pumpkin over 2,000 pounds, and I am so excited. I worked so hard. I'm so proud to win first place." Urena believes the secret to his success is telling the fruits he is proud of them and encouraging them to keep growing!
In addition to the mega-prize, the contest officials also awarded the top 19 entries between $3,000 (runner-up) to $200 (11th to 20th place), each. The judges also handed out $1000 each in three other categories: "biggest pumpkin from California," "biggest pumpkin from the Coastside (Montara to Pescadero)," and "most beautiful pumpkin."
The four heaviest pumpkins will be on display at Half Moon Bay’s Art and Pumpkin Festival, which will take place on the weekend of October 19th. If you happen to be lucky enough to see them, be sure to share what the colossal produce look like up close by adding your comments below.