Worland Man's Gigantic Pumpkin Over 1,700 Pounds And Still Growing

Jay Richard built his greenhouse to grow one thing — a humongous 2,000-pound pumpkin. Marion is 1,750 pounds and growing. He's preparing for the Wyoming Pumpkin Growing Championship and Pumpkin Drop in early October.

Andrew Rossi

September 17, 20236 min read

Jay Richard and "Marion," his 1,700-pound pumpkin in his P2K greenhouse in Worland. This is the first year Richard has used the custom-built greenhouse, where he can control the humidity and temperature needed to grow the biggest pumpkins possible. He won't reach 2,000 pounds this year, but he learned enough to get there in the future.
Jay Richard and "Marion," his 1,700-pound pumpkin in his P2K greenhouse in Worland. This is the first year Richard has used the custom-built greenhouse, where he can control the humidity and temperature needed to grow the biggest pumpkins possible. He won't reach 2,000 pounds this year, but he learned enough to get there in the future. (Photo Courtesy Jay Richard)

Jay Richard entered 2023 with one goal: grow a 2,000-pound pumpkin by the end of September. Within days of an important deadline, the Worland grower doesn’t think he’ll get there.

But he's close.

This is the Worland man's first year growing pumpkins in his new greenhouse custom-built for what he calls Project P2K. Under carefully controlled conditions, he anticipates a big future growing in a rainforest rather than a high desert.

When Cowboy State Daily checked in with Richard in late July, Richard’s largest pumpkin, Marion, weighed 770 pounds. On Sept. 17, it weighed more than 1,750 pounds and is still growing.

While it may miss the 2,000-pound mark, Richard isn’t upset in the slightest. This has been the most successful season he’s ever had.

“I certainly didn’t expect this kind of growth in the first year. They’re really doing very well,” Richards said of his pampered pumpkins.

Joanie, the second pumpkin growing in the greenhouse, weighed more than 1,500 pounds.

Then there’s Old Leather, a third pumpkin growing outside the greenhouse in Richard’s traditional pumpkin patch. Even that pumpkin without the benefit of a greenhouse is growing extraordinarily well, weighing almost 1,250 pounds.

“She's ugly, but she’s gonna be a tank,” he said about Old Leather.

Not Stretching It

Richards will be hauling Marion to weigh-ins like the Center Street Giant Pumpkin Festival in Logan, Utah, on Sept. 23. But as the finish line nears for his 2023 season, he’s getting nervous.

Marion has a stretch mark. It’s a “minor, minor problem” right now, but it could lead to catastrophe.

Stretch marks form as a pumpkin’s skin ripens and thickens as it continues to grow. The added weight can cause cracks to form, which could eventually cause the pumpkin to split and collapse.

Richard has been covering his prized pumpkins with blankets to keep the sun off their skin since the beginning. He’s doctoring Marion’s stretch mark, but only so much can be done.

Since it’s late in the season, the plant is “getting tired,” and the high humidity in the greenhouse could lead to the growth of mildew or an aphid infestation. Drastic measures may be needed to keep the pumpkin intact, including stopping its growth altogether.

“Normally, you keep the foot on the gas all the way to the end," Richard said, but the stretch mark "raised my eyebrows enough. (Stopping growth) will cost me some pounds, but maybe I’ll have an intact pumpkin this time."

Richard has reason to be cautious.  

“I’ve seen this movie before. Two years ago, I had that one crater at just about this time,” he said. “All systems go now, but it has me smiling and scared at the same time.”

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Pumpkin Masters (AKA PumpKings)

While a 2,000-pound pumpkin wasn’t grown in Worland this year, Richard has learned “tons” about what he’ll need to get a 1-ton pumpkin. He has every confidence that he’ll get there in his new greenhouse.

“There’s no question that my goal is attainable after seeing what happened this year. No regrets at all about building it,” he said.

The next step toward a 2,000-pound pumpkin is improving his soil quality. Richard knew the soil wouldn’t be entirely up to snuff this season, as it can take years for the quality to improve to the point where it's good enough for gargantuan gourds to thrive.

Richards has his eyes on another potential prize in 2023: The Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s Jacket Award.

According to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s website, the Grower Gen2 Jacket Award is given “to pumpkins weighing 2,200 pounds for the current calendar year. A grower will only be awarded one Gen 2 Jacket."

There is also the 4,300-pound club, a patch awarded to the grower who gets three pumpkins with a total weight of 4,300 pounds or more. If a grower makes it into the 4,300-pound club without previously getting a Grower Gen 2 Jacket, he will be awarded a jacket instead of a patch.

“It’s the equivalent of the (Professional Golf Associations’) Master’s jacket in the pumpkin world,” Richard said. “That wasn’t even a consideration at the beginning of the year.”

Richard will find out if he will get a Grower Gen 2 Jacket during the Center Street Giant Pumpkin Festival in Logan.

There are rumors that a 2,000-pound pumpkin is growing in Wyoming. Andy Corbin of Cheyenne, the current state record holder, is growing a monster that could have “a legitimate shot” of crossing the threshold, Richard said.

Both of Richard’s greenhouse pumpkins grew from Corbin's seeds. Richard said he’s excited about its progress, but Corbin doesn’t want to “curse himself” and isn’t disclosing the actual weight of his pumpkin. He’ll let the scales make the big reveal.

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Going To Smash An RV

The real celebration of this year’s pumpkins will be the annual Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off in Worland on Oct. 7. That includes the Pumpkin Drop, when one of Richard’s massive gourds will be dropped from a 200-foot crane.

Richard wants Old Leather to make the ascent this year. Already 1,250 pounds and still gaining up to 17 pounds a day, it could be the largest pumpkin ever dropped in Worland.

To make things more interesting, Young’s Camper Repair in Worland has donated a motor home to sit under the crane and be crushed by Old Leather.

Richard will celebrate his success this year while taking the steps to grow next year’s giant pumpkins. That work starts immediately after Old Leather drops.

“The notes have been taken. I’m already thinking about genetics, what I’m going to grow next year, and what I’ve got to do to the soil this fall," he said. "The day after the weigh-off, the soil preparation will start for next year."

Andrew Rossi can be reached at: ARossi@CowboyStateDaily.com

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter