Half Moon Bay nearly broke the scales this year with the biggest gourd ever grown in the U.S.

By Charles Russo

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble: Last year’s weigh-off champ Cindy Tobeck (right) stands atop her pumpkin (“The Death Star”) after clocking in at 2002 pounds. Yet her competition was formidable — six time weigh-off champ Joel Holland showed up with the largest pumpkin ever grown in America. (Photos by Charles Russo)

“It’s the biggest prize money in all Pumpkin-dom!”

That’s how a local grower articulated the significance of Half Moon Bay’s long-running annual pumpkin weigh-off. Sponsored by Safeway, this year’s competition was indeed a lucrative draw, paying out to the top monster gourd grower at $7 per pound, and offering $30,000 if one of them broke the standing world record (set by a German farmer last year at 2624 pounds).

This year’s overgrown entries began arriving before dawn in pickup trucks, along Johnston Street in downtown Half Moon Bay, from locations all over the western United States. They came huge and in different hues. Yet the largest of the bunch all hailed from Washington State, including one from last year’s champ — Cindy Tobeck of Olympia.

Last year’s weigh-off champion Cindy Tobeck waves to the crowd before the final heavyweight pumpkins make their way to the scale. (Photo by Charles Russo)

“Last year I won at 1910 [pounds] and I did not want to return unless I had a 2000-pound contender,” Tobeck explained from atop the flat-bed carting her pumpkin. “And this? I’ve never grown anything so big in my life.”

A lively participant who has brought an upbeat and rambunctious feel to the local event, Tobeck dubbed her pumpkin “The Death Star” and took the stage to the tune of the Darth Vader-themed Imperial March. When her gourd was finally hoisted onto the official scale, the results eclipsed her expectations — by 2 pounds, at 2002. It was only the second time a pumpkin has surpassed the two-ton mark at the Half Moon Bay competition.

However, Tobeck faced some colossal competition grown from the fields of fellow Washingtonian Joel Holland, who explained to reporters earlier in the day that he had needed to rent special equipment just to get his pumpkin out of the field he grew it in. “My tractor…just couldn’t do it,” he confessed with a shake of his head.

Joel Holland’s pumpkin weighed-in at 2363 pounds, the largest ever recorded in the United States. (Photo by Charles Russo)

A resident of Sumner, Washington, Holland first participated in the Half Moon Bay event in 1992, and has won the contest a half-dozen times in the past. This year Holland made the 810-mile trip to enter the largest pumpkin he’s ever grown.

The odds-on favorite in the heavyweight class, Holland’s gourd elicited cheers (and a fair amount of gasps) as the final weight for his entry clocked in at 2363 pounds, presumably the largest pumpkin ever grown in the United States.

“Seventh times-a-charm,” Holland shouted triumphantly, as the crowd snapped shots of the victor….and all was well in Pumpkin-dom.

The crowd reacts to a two-thousand pounder. (Photo by Charles Russo)

See the winning giant pumpkins on display this weekend amid the festivities of The 47th Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

October 14–15, 9am to 5pm

Main Street, Half Moon Bay.

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THE SIX FIFTY staff

Sometimes our work is a collaborative effort, hence the "staff" byline. The best of what to eat, see and do on the SF Peninsula.

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