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A ton of giant pumpkin takes home prize

Giant pumpkin and its grower
Madison Thomson of Newcastle shows off his 2020 champion -- weighing in at 2,089 pounds -- at the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival. (Photo courtesy
Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival)

First-time entrant wins Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival weigh-off

Will 2020 be a big year for pumpkins? Judging by the results of the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival, it could be.

Held Saturday without public attendance, the pumpkin weigh-off was one of the few parts of the popular festival offered this year; the pumpkin boat races, pie eating contest and other festivities were all canceled due to COVID-19 health guidelines. More than 70,000 patrons packed the 2019 pumpkin fest.

But the pandemic didn’t stop pumpkins from growing. The 2020 winner: 2,089 pounds. That’s 151 pounds more than the 2019 champion pumpkin.

The new king of Sacramento-area pumpkin growers was a first-time entrant. Madison Thomson of Newcastle took home the $2,000 first prize. Thomson told The Sacramento Bee that he had been growing giants for 15 years, but this was his first time to enter Elk Grove’s contest.

“I was not expecting to win at all,” he said. “I was not expecting it to get as heavy as it did. This pumpkin is over double the size of my next largest pumpkin that I’ve ever grown.”

The victory also was Thomson’s first in a weigh-off sanctioned for official records.

“Madison began growing giant pumpkins in high school and has been growing them on and off ever since,” the festival posted on Facebook. “(Saturday) was his first visit to the Elk Grove Weigh-Off and his first-ever win at a Great Pumpkin Commonwealth sanctioned contest.”

Thomson’s pumpkin won by a whole lot of gourd. The runner-up weighed “only” 1,731.5 pounds. About 30 contestants competed in the “heftiest” category.

Known for its over-sized pumpkins, the festival shared the weigh-off and awards via a broadcast on Facebook Live. The 2018 winner, grown in Napa, set a California record at 2,138 pounds.

Started in 1994, the Elk Grove Giant Pumpkin Festival also held virtual contests with online voting for prettiest giant pumpkin and “Hometown Scarecrow.”

Next up for pumpkin fans is the granddaddy of gourd weigh-offs, the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin and Art Festival. Like Elk Grove, the festival itself was canceled. But not to be denied, the pumpkins will roll into the spotlight.

From 7 to 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 12, pumpkin fans around the globe can watch that festival’s weigh-off via Facebook, which will include coverage via drone.

“Our camera crews will be going back and forth from the ground to the sky to bring you this year’s Weigh-Off Livestream on Facebook,” the organizers posted on Facebook. “The rockstars at HMB Media and Mallermedia blend the engineering geek technical expertise with the ability to tell a story through visuals like no one else. Livestream the action on our weigh-off Facebook page

and catch Half Moon Bay’s 47th Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, Monday, October 12, 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., Long Branch Farms! Godzilla gourds abound, sadly no spectators this year.”


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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