Giant pumpkin springs a leak, disqualified from contest

Steve Connolly, from Sharon, Mass., poses with his 1,568-pound pumpkin.
Steve Connolly, from Sharon, Mass., poses with his 1,568-pound pumpkin. (Stew Milne)
By By Matt Collette and Terri Schwartz, Globe Correspondent
October 11, 2008
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WARREN, R.I.—The more than 200 people who gathered Saturday afternoon at Frerichs Farm must have felt a bit like Linus van Pelt, waiting all day for the Great Pumpkin that wasn't.

Steve Connolly, a 53-year-old mechanical engineer from Sharon, Mass., had hoped the pumpkin he'd nurtured for the past five months would break the world record for heaviest pumpkin. But when his pumpkin, favored to win, was hoisted up onto the scale, it was evident that something was wrong.

His fruit was leaking.

Connolly's pumpkin weighed in at 1,568 pounds, just 121 pounds shy of the world record, at the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Grower’s Annual Weigh-Off at Frerichs Farm in Warren, R.I. But he was disqualified because of the hole, located along a rib at the bottom of the pumpkin.

“I think everyone’s more disappointed about it than me," Connolly said. "The reason is, because I did it, they can’t take the weight away from me. It gives me something to shoot for next year.”

Though he was taking the competition's twists and turns in stride, Connolly said he was glad the long day was over. The weighing began at 1 p.m. and lasted until almost 5 p.m. It just takes a long time to hoist such enormous pumpkins onto a scale, a task that requires two forklifts and a harness.

“I’m feeling relieved," he said. "It’s about time today is over.”

Joe Jutras, of North Scituate, R.I., who set the world record last September at the Topsfield Fair, took home the first-place prize yesterday. Jutras said a buyer in New York approached him about buying his 1,507-pound pumpkin so it could be turned into a giant jack-o-lantern.

Connolly and Jutras were the stars of the weigh-off yesterday. Organizers played up a rivalry between the duo, and their pumpkins were the last two to be weighed. Jutras admitted a rivalry existed, but said that, in competitive pumpkin growing, the bigger rivalries are between clubs.

“There’s more rivalry between one club and another club than between each other,” he said. Connolly and Jutras are both members of the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association.

Connolly's pumpkin will be on display tomorrow mon at Clover Valley Farm in North Easton, Mass. He estimated he could make 5,000 pumpkin pies with his giant gourd.

Connolly grew his pumpkin to such an extreme weight by keeping it sipping from a garden hose and feeding it a diet of ground bone, blood, fish, molasses, and cow and chicken manure. In 2000, he became the first pumpkin grower in New England to break the 1,000-pound mark. He also benefited from the wet weather this summer, which is ideal for giant pumpkin growing.

“We get some good summer weather," said Dick Wallace, vice president and treasurer of the pumpkin growers association. "We get a little earlier spring than people in the north, and more good weather in the fall.”

About 25 people signed up to be first-time competitors in next year's competition, Wallace said.

George Parent, who operated the scale, was amazed by how interested people were in the competition.

“Who’d of thought?" he said. "Growing pumpkins. Wow.”

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