October 7: The day had arrived at last. After spending 17 weeks in the cozy pumpkin patch, Seymour the giant pumpkin was cut loose from its vine. Along with the many Arb visitors looking on, we held our breath as Arb staff guided Seymour onto the pallet and set it gently in pumpkin volunteer Steve Eckman’s pick-up truck.
What the heck is a “giant pumpkin weigh-off”?
Early the next day, Seymour the giant pumpkin was transported to the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off at the Stillwater Harvest Festival. This is an annual event hosted by the St. Croix Growers Association.
Seymour was met with a large contingency of gargantuan orange, yellow and white pumpkins, some twice and even three times his size.
A giant pumpkin weigh-off is an all-day event. Around 9 or 10 a.m., contestants pulled their trucks up to an unloading zone. There, the giant pumpkins were hauled with a forklift to the staging area, a roped-off parking lot along the picturesque St. Croix River.
Volunteers measured and calculated an estimated weight. Then, crowds gathered to watch as the giant pumpkins were weighed on a pallet scale from smallest to largest, based on the estimated weights. Winners were announced at 3 p.m.
The “smaller” 100- to 200-pound pumpkins were weighed first. Eventually, it was Seymour’s turn. As the pumpkin crew situated Seymour on the pallet scale, the MC of the event, dressed in an orange pumpkin suit, interviewed us about why we chose to grow giant pumpkins for the first time this year. We explained that as U of M Extension educators, we wanted people to see how giant pumpkins are grown, to learn how they could do it, and to generate interest in home horticulture.
Finally, the number on the scale was revealed. Seymour weighed in at a whopping 744.5 pounds! We had estimated about 700 lbs., so we were very happy with the results. He was respectably huge.
That said, Seymour did not “place” in the weigh-off. The top 10 pumpkins were all over 1,000 pounds. The first-place winning pumpkin weighed 2,210 pounds.
After the festival, Seymour returned to the Arboretum where he was placed beside Audrey in front of the Snyder Visitor’s Center. They were a popular stop for visitors - especially families - to take photos with them and on them. They remained on display through Halloween.
On November 1, we said goodbye to Audrey and Seymour as they accompanied the rest of the arboretum’s pumpkins to the great compost pile, where they will return to the earth to fertilize other arboretum plants. It was time. Late October, we noticed they were starting to rot and Annie was concerned the pumpkins might collapse if anyone sat on them, so they had to be roped off.
Julie Weisenhorn and Jon Trappe, our new Extension turf educator, followed the dump truck to the compost pile and collected seeds from both pumpkins.
Will you see more giant pumpkins at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum next year?
Not from us. We enjoyed embarking on this giant pumpkin adventure in 2022, but we won’t be repeating it next year. As educators, we have other projects on the horizon.
We hope that someone out there has been inspired to try growing these giant fruits. Who knows? Maybe you will spot a giant pumpkin in the Arboretum Children’s Garden, at a Master Gardener teaching garden, or as part of a 4-H project. As for us, we are retiring from giant pumpkin growing after a successful one-year career.
Thank you for experiencing Seymour and Audrey with us over the last 6 months and a special thank you to our Extension horticulture intern Noah Burley who was a key partner in this project. It sure has been fun!