This past weekend, the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival hosted the 2023 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Pumpkin masters from around the country showed up with absolutely enormous gourds to complete for cash prizes at the “Super Bowl of weigh-offs.” You can see the winning pumpkins at this weekend’s HMB Pumpkin Festival on Oct. 14-15, 2023.
The grand prize went to Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minnesota, whose behemoth of a pumpkin clocked in at 2,749 pounds. He got $30,000 for his achievements, as the festival has long promised a $30K mega-prize for anyone who can manage to break the world record. The previous world record was set in September 2021 by Stefano Cutrupi of Italy, who grew a pumpkin weighing 2,703 lbs.
This marks Gienger’s third time at the top of the podium in the last 4 years. He also won the 2022 weigh-off with a 2,560-pound pumpkin and the 2020 weigh-off with a 2,350-pound pumpkin.
We also saw a new California recordbreaker at this year’s festival. Ron Root and Nick Kennedy of Citrus Heights, CA broke the state record with their mega-gourd weighing 2,497 pounds.
What makes it so difficult to grow a giant prize-worthy pumpkin is timing it right for competition. In the spring, farmers plant massive seeds from their best Atlantic Giant pumpkins, and grow them in rich soil with plenty of compost, fertilizer, and water. At their best, giant pumpkins can grow up to 50 pounds a day, but as soon as they’re cut, pumpkins can lose 6-8 pounds a day. All the more impressive for our first-place pumpkin.
Half Moon Bay’s famous pumpkin weigh-off has been in the works since 1974, when the winning pumpkin weighed in at just 132 pounds. Pumpkin size has increased steadily in the decades since its inception. In 2001 the winning pumpkins started breaking 1,000 pounds, and in 2014 the first pumpkin over 2,000 pounds took the grand prize. Since 2017 every single winning pumpkin has broken 2,000 pounds.
The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival is back, and it’s a big one! This year is its 51st annual event, taking place on October 15-16, 2022 from 9am-5pm on historic Main Street in Half Moon Bay. Enjoy a day of picturesque coastal views, live music and dancing, masterful pumpkin carvers, harvest-inspired crafts, endless pumpkin pie and other festive food, and of course thousands of pumpkins including the newly crowned champion.