As It Happens

Man from 'Halloween Capital of the World' grows heaviest pumpkin of 2020

The 35-hour drive from Minnesota to California was a smashing success for Travis Gienger when his massive pumpkin won the 47th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

The 1,065.9-kg pumpkin — nicknamed Tiger King — is the heaviest weighed in North America this year

Travis Gienger's 2,350-lb pumpkin won the 47th annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Oct. 12, 2020. (Submitted by Travis Gienger)

The 35-hour drive from Anoka, Minn., to Half Moon Bay, Calif., was a smashing success for Travis Gienger when his massive pumpkin won the 47th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

To enter the contest, Gienger had to focus on one key aspect — making sure the 2,350-lb (1065.9-kg) pumpkin didn't smash on its way.

"It was actually kind of stressful because if it cracks at all, you get nothing," Geinger told As It Happens host Carol Off. "You're completely disqualified. So every bump, every turn, you're kind of white-knuckling it, so to speak."

The grand prize for that cautious driving? A grand total of US $16,450 ($21,699.94 Cdn), or $7 a pound. 

The Safeway event bills itself as the "Super Bowl of Weigh-Offs" and draws contestants from around the world. The winning gourd earns the title of heaviest pumpkin weighed in North America.   

Transporting the pumpkin from Anoka, Minn., to Half Moon Bay, Calif., took a 35-hour drive. (Submitted by Travis Gienger)

To guarantee his giant gourd made it to California intact, Geinger wrapped the pumpkin — which he named Tiger King, after the Netflix documentary series — in tarps and made sure they remained wet throughout the journey.

"On the way there, people were wondering why, [at] every gas station, we were wetting the blankets down. They're like, 'Are you transporting a dolphin?'" he said.

"On the way back, it was completely wide open for everyone to see. And we had written on the trailer, 'North America's largest pumpkin.'"

Gienger named the gourd Tiger King. (Submitted by Travis Gienger)

It was a fitting victory for the resident of a town that calls itself the Halloween Capital of the World. The appreciation was evident when he returned.

"I pulled into my place and I had big signs and gift certificates from the hardware store and the local grocery store," he said.

Gienger, a landscape and horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College, grew the giant gourd in his backyard.

"I just kind of knew what it needed from years prior and just gave it a little bit everything," he said, describing how he fertilized the soil with a seaweed kelp mixture and potassium, but didn't test the soil or tissue.

While Gienger has the heaviest pumpkin weighed in North America this year, the all-time record for heaviest pumpkin in the U.S. was set in 2018 by a 2,500-lb gourd from New Hampshire. The heaviest pumpkin in the world record was set by a 2,624.6-lb pumpkin from Belgium in 2016, according to Guinness World Records

But Tiger King's journey doesn't end with the victory. Gienger has big plans to turn it into a Jack-o-Lantern.

"We will be making a big tiger because it was nicknamed Tiger King. So it'll be all relief-carved and look like real fur," he said.

Written by Tahiat Mahboob. Interview produced by Lisa Bryn Rundle.

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