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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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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of March 26:

Sacramento can expect another inch of rain from this latest storm. Leave the sprinklers off at least another week. Temps will dip down into the low 30s early in the week, so avoid planting tender seedlings (such as tomatoes). Concentrate on these tasks before or after this week’s rain:

* Fertilize roses, annual flowers and berries as spring growth begins to appear.

* Knock off aphids with a strong blast of water or some bug soap as soon as they appear.

* Pull weeds now! Don’t let them get started. Take a hoe and whack them as soon as they sprout.

* Prepare summer vegetable beds. Spade in compost and other amendments.

* Prune and fertilize spring-flowering shrubs after bloom.

* Feed camellias at the end of their bloom cycle. Pick up browned and fallen flowers to help corral blossom blight.

* Feed citrus trees, which are now in bloom and setting fruit.

To prevent sunburn and borer problems on young trees, paint the exposed portion of the trunk with diluted white latex (water-based) interior paint. Dilute the paint with an equal amount of cold water before application.

* Cut back and fertilize perennial herbs to encourage new growth.

* Seed and renovate the lawn (if you still have one). Feed cool-season grasses such as bent, blue, rye and fescue with a slow-release fertilizer. Check the irrigation system and perform maintenance. Make sure sprinkler heads are turned toward the lawn, not the sidewalk.

* In the vegetable garden, transplant lettuce and kale.

* Seed chard and beets directly into the ground.

* Plant summer bulbs, including gladiolus, tuberous begonias and callas. Also plant dahlia tubers.

* Shop for perennials. Many varieties are available in local nurseries and at plant events. They can be transplanted now while the weather remains relatively cool.

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