Every year there is an annual weigh-off to determine the largest pumpkin grown in the state of Utah. It is sponsored by the Utah Giant Pumpkin Growers Association. Matt McConkie, Mountain Green resident, holds the current state record. His enormous pumpkin weighed in last year at a whopping 1,600 pounds.
This year McConkie decided not to grow his massive vegetables. Family friend, Tyler Quigley, said that his children were thrilled to hear the news because their dad would “have a better chance at winning this year.” Quigley has been growing pumpkins with McConkie for three years now. The first year he took third place with a 886 pound pumpkin and the second year he took sixth place weighing in at 994 pounds. This year he estimates that his pumpkin will match the 1,600 pound record set by McConkie, but said, “You can never be sure until it is on the scale because some pumpkins are heavier than others for their size. I won’t be getting much sleep until this pumpkin has safely been weighed.”
Quigley says the secret to growing these abnormally large gourds is good seeds, good soil and good luck. The seeds that are used are obtained through other growers. The genealogy of the seed can be traced back for generations. It is very difficult to grow an award-winning pumpkin from seeds you buy from a box store. These pumpkins are big eaters. They require amended soil with manure, compost and fertilizers. Plants are fed three to five times a week to replenish the nutrients in the soil. Although Quigley is a resident of Mountain Green, the plants cannot be grown here. The nighttime temperatures and early frosts make it incredibly difficult to raise a vegetable of this size, so they are raised in an undisclosed plot of land that they lease in Weber County.
“It is exhilarating to watch these giants put on up to 40 pounds a day during peak growth. You can almost watch them grow. The plants end up being about 1,000 square feet and the pumpkin itself is roughly the size of a Mini Cooper,” said Quigley. A lot of things can go wrong when growing pumpkins. They can stop growing due to disease, and one of Quigley’s pumpkins split open when it was 1,200 lbs. When they grow at that rate, sometimes they can’t stretch fast enough and they split. Another worry is moving a gourd that size. A friend and neighbor, Frayne Spens, helps Quigley harvest the pumpkins using his crane. Large straps are placed under the pumpkin to lift it up. “It’s very nerve wracking to move them. If they crack, they are disqualified from the contest.”
The current world record holder was grown in Canada last year and weighed in at 1,818.5 lbs. There is a prize for first place of $1,000, and a total prize purse of over $2,500. However, Quigley says it’s not about the money; it’s just fun to see the looks on people’s faces when they see these gargantuan gourds.