When Wyoming’s “pumpkin king” is done with growing – and weighing – season, he has creative ways of disposing his 1,000-pound pumpkins.
Jay Richard, a small business owner and pumpkin grower who has hosted the Wyoming State Pumpkin Weigh-Off Championship in his hometown of Worland for the past 11 years, finishes the annual event by dropping his pumpkins from a 200-foot crane.
Others receive an equally violent goodbye – as two of his gourds did this weekend.
Blown To Oblivion
“Rose,” his 1,069-pound pumpkin, and her sister “Sophia” (which hit a top weight of 1,165 pounds) were each blown to oblivion with an AR-15 after being packed with dozens of pounds of explosives.
“There’s nothing quite like it,” Richard said of the spectacle. “You can feel the shockwaves when they blow up.”
Richard, who has been exploding his pumpkins for five years, said the key is packing them with Tannerite — a brand of targets that explode when hit by a high-velocity bullet.
For the most spectacular blasts, it’s preferable to pack the pumpkins with a lot of it.
“I don’t know how much is legal to use, but you can say the first one had north of 25 pounds in it,” Richard laughed.
The other one? Only about 20 pounds.
The explosion is instantaneous, but the after-effects can last up to 15 seconds.
“The chunks were just raining down on us,” Richard said of the second pumpkin that had significantly less explosives in it.
As for the first one, there weren’t any chunks.
“It was completely obliterated,” Richard said, laughing again.
Richard is joined by about 40 people each year for the blast, held out near the badlands in a farmer’s field.
As part of his son’s birthday present, the high-schooler gets to pull the trigger.
Richard said he’s proud to live in a “red state” where people who may not join the festivities in other states think nothing of it here.
“You might just be from Wyoming when the incoming sheriff and the history teacher come out to watch,” Richard said
Why does he do it?
“Because I can,” he said matter-of-factly.
After the pumpkins are destroyed, the group then gathers to watch the action in slow-motion from videos made with a series of GoPro cameras.
From that, they get to see different perspectives.
“One of the explosions looked like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man jumping out of the Pillsbury Doughboy’s head,” Richard said, laughing again. “You don’t see that in real time.”