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For most Americans, fall is synonymous with pumpkins. Some use the fruit to make delicious soups and bread, others to carve out scary jack-o-lanterns. Then there are those that spend months nurturing massive gourds for pumpkin weigh-off contests. Though there are numerous competitions nationwide, the most impressive pumpkins usually end up at the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, CA.
The 48-year-old annual competition — nicknamed the "Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs" — has always been a favorite among pumpkin growers. But it has become even more so after the supermarket chain raised the maximum winnable prize to $30,000 in 2015. To receive the "World Record Prize," competitors have to produce a "World Record Pumpkin." This year, that meant one bigger than the 2,703-pound gourd that set a new world record in Italy in late September 2021. If the competition's heaviest pumpkin weighs less, the owner receives $9 per pound.
This year's event, which took place on October 13, 2021, attracted 58 hefty pumpkins. While 11 weighed over 1,000 pounds, they were no match for the 2,191-pound beauty brought in by 62-year-old Jeff Uhlmeyer. While the gourd was not big enough to earn the "World Record Prize," Uhlmeyer did go home with a respectable $19,719. The Olympia, WA, resident credits the pumpkin's impressive size to "good soil, good seed, and a lot of love."
Second-prize winner Leonardo Urena, from Napa, CA, received $3,000 for his 2,007-pounder and an additional $1000 for submitting the state's largest pumpkin. Fellow Napa resident John Hawkley took third place and received $2,500 for his 1,857-pound entry, while Portola Valley, CA, resident Eric Carlson took home $1000 for bringing in the contest's "Most Beautiful Pumpkin."
The annual weigh-off competition is usually a precursor to the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival. Unfortunately, the popular event has been canceled for the second consecutive year due to the pandemic. Hopefully, the beloved 50-year-old tradition will resume in 2022.
Resources: weighoff.miramarevents.com, www.smdailyjournal.com