Bring on the burly, beef, bodacious behemoths! If you’re into pumpkins, Pumpkintown is the place to be this time of year with Half Moon Bay’s 50th Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.
Yesterday, defending champion and horticulture teacher Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minn., smashed the previous World Record, following last year’s 2,560-pound champion pumpkin with a goliath 2,749-pound pumpkin.
The previous world record was 2,703 pounds, set at a 2021 weigh-off in Italy.
According to the San Francisco Standard, Gienger grows his gourds in his backyard, watering them 12 times daily and applying a heavy dose of fertilizer. His first competition at the annual weigh-off was in 2020, and he’s won three of the last four contests held at Half Moon Bay.
Another record was broken by Ron Root, and Nick Kennedy who squashed California’s state record with their massive pumpkin weighing a massive 2,496 pounds.
What do the winners get?
The “Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs” in the World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay, California, pumpkins are weighed and using a pay-by-the-pound system, the world’s biggest top prize of $9 per pound will be awarded to the 2023 weigh-off champion thanks to title sponsor, Safeway.
Also at stake are thousands of dollars in super hefty prize money doled out to the top 20, plus the big carrot: a $30,000 total mega-prize for the new world record pumpkin entered at Half Moon Bay.
The grand champion gourd (along with the top four overall) will be on display, plus there’s a special weigh-off champion pumpkin photo booth at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, October 14-15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Main Street.
How the championships got their start
Sometimes, a tiny seed can go a long way. What started in 1974 as a fun, light-hearted contest between Circleville, Ohio, and Half Moon Bay, California, two cities proclaiming to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World, has grown into Half Moon Bay’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, the Super Bowl of pumpkin weigh-off competitions worldwide.
Lore has it that while visiting Half Moon Bay in 1974, Frank Barnhill, then mayor of Circleville, Ohio, was deeply impressed with the prolific and passionate local pumpkin-growing culture. He met with then Half Moon Bay mayor, Al Adreveno, and they agreed to have their two proud pumpkin-loving cities square off in the first head-to-head pumpkin weigh-off, hauling the most enormous local gourds to their historic city halls for the official weighing competition.
Once concluded, the two mayors got on a phone call to announce their respective winning weight and grower. To formalize the proceedings, county ag representatives officiated both weigh-offs to make things official. That first year, Half Moon Bay’s biggest pumpkin, 132 pounds, grown by John Minaidis, won by one pound. Half Moon Bay brought home the coveted title of Pumpkin Capital of the World that very first year, and a legend was born.