Steve Daletas from Pleasant Hill, Ore., took top honors at the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off on Monday and his giant gourd made him a four-time winner.
His behemoth came in at 2,170 pounds. It is the second-heaviest pumpkin ever weighed in Half Moon Bay.
Ruben Frias from Napa is this year’s winner among California growers, with a 1,805-pound pumpkin. Twenty-six-year-old Josiah Brandt from Rudolph, Wisc., won second place, with a 2,136-pound gourd.
Hundreds of people bustled throughout the I.D.E.S. grounds on Main Street on a clear-skied Monday morning to see the giant gourds gingerly placed — in many cases aided by forklifts and harnesses — onto the scale.
Dozens of growers, including grizzled veterans and eager-eyed first-timers, hauled their pumpkins to the 45th annual Half Moon Bay event. Sagging pickup trucks lined Johnston Street in the hours leading up to the event as competitors unveiled the orange orbs.
Daletas came all the way from Oregon with his massive, slightly pale oblong squash in the back of his truck.
“If you think you have a chance to win, you’ve got to come down,” said the three-time champion as he unfurled the plastic tarp covering his pumpkin. “There’s something about the feel that this town has. We don’t have that up where we are.”
The competition marks the beginning of the unofficial pilgrimage made by thousands of visitors to the annual Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. The winner is guaranteed a prime spot at the festival this weekend.
Napa grower Leonardo Urena was grateful for the sunshine at this year’s weigh-off. This time last year, wildfires raged across Napa and Sonoma counties, where some of the biggest pumpkins in California are grown.
“Last year, my body was here but my brain was in Napa,” he said. “But today, it’s a different deal. It’s a gorgeous day.”
Former reigning Half Moon Bay champion Joel Holland — his 2,363-pound prize pumpkin earned him last year’s crown and set the then-new North American record — was not able to defend his title this year. Event officials confirmed that the Sumner, Wash., native discovered a hole in his pumpkin, which would have disqualified him from the competition.
Holland’s record was broken this past weekend by Steve Geddes, whose 2,528-pound buckled the scales at a weigh-off in New Hampshire.
As always, beauty was given a chance to battle against brawn as audience members cheered and clapped to show their support. The three prettiest pumpkins are selected by the event organizers, and the gourd that garners the most applause is declared the winner.
But while many world record breakers were in attendance this year, not all of them were trying to grow the greatest gourd. Washington resident Charity Marshall, a first-time competitor, paddled her hollowed-out pumpkin 15 miles down the state’s Cowlitz River in 2016. She broke the Guinness World Record for the longest distance traveled in a pumpkin.
“I sat in a pumpkin for six hours,” she said. “All you have is a pair of kayak oars and you’re off.”