Jay Richard’s pumpkins are ready for prime time as one of his gargantuan gourds won a Colorado contest over the weekend as he eyes the Wyoming weigh-off in Worland this weekend. While the pumpkin crushed the competition, it also played havoc with his vehicle.
Richard was driving to Littleton, Colorado, this past weekend with his family and “Joanie,” the second of two massive pumpkins he grew in his custom-built greenhouse in Worland. He was making good time until one of his tires blew out between Douglas and Cheyenne.
“The good news is the pumpkin’s heavy enough to blow a tire,” Richard told Cowboy State Daily. “The bad news was I blew a tire.”
He got his truck to Cheyenne for new tires, but had to step on it to get Joanie to Littleton in time to be weighed.
“I’ve never driven that fast with a pumpkin in the back of my truck. I'll guarantee it was the fastest pumpkin in Colorado,” he said.
Joanie made up for the tire mishap. The pumpkin got Jay his second first-place finish this year.
“I never win,” he said. “I’ve been the perpetual bridesmaid but never the bride. To get back-to-back wins is amazing.”
Weight To Chart
Pumpkin growers don’t have massive scales to gauge gourd size. Instead, they use the “weight-to-chart” method to estimate size. They take measurements of their pumpkins and compare them to a chart of pumpkin sizes and weights with surprising accuracy.
The other pumpkin Richard grew in his greenhouse this year, Marion, weighed 1,784 pounds at the Center Street Pumpkin Festival in Logan, Utah, on Sept. 23, where it won first place. Richard said the weight-to-chart weight for Marion was only a few pounds off from the actual weight.
“We know what a typical, healthy pumpkin weighs. The chart is very accurate,” Richard said.
Joanie’s weight-to-chart was 1,456 pounds when Richard loaded her into his truck for the trip to Littleton. He hoped his second-best pumpkin would reach at least 1,500 pounds on the scale.
Even Richard was blown away by Joanie’s actual weight of 1,686 pounds, which was 15% heavier than the weight-to-chart estimate.
Joanie and Marion, named for mother-daughter duo in the hit 1970s sit-com “Happy Days,” are the first pumpkins Richard grew in his custom greenhouse. But Richard said Joanie has the distinct of being the easiest large pumpkin of his growing career.
“Joanie did exactly what she was supposed to,” he said. “She’s a beautiful pumpkin and extremely heavy. There were very few concerns, she taught me a few things and is just a solid pumpkin.”
What Goes Up Must Come Down
Richard has a few more milestones to squash in 2023. He’ll find out if he’s achieved them at the annual Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off at the Washakie County Fairgrounds on Saturday.
The event is held in conjunction with the Worland Ten Sleep Chamber of Commerce’s Oktoberfest 2023, which includes a tug-of-war, a beer garden and a craft and vendor show.
The weigh-off begins at 11 a.m. and runs throughout the day, culminating in the Giant Pumpkin Drop at 2:30 p.m. A 175-foot crane will hoist several giant pumpkins before dropping them onto a motorhome.
Richard’s third pumpkin, Old Leather, has been growing in his traditional outdoors pumpkin patch just as long as Joanie and Marion have in the greenhouse. It’s already destined to make the 175-foot drop.
“Old Leather will get her first flying lesson,” he said. “I suspect she’ll pass the flying lesson well, but her landing isn’t going to go very well.”
But the pumpkin has one more important task before the plummet.
Richard hopes to cap off the best season of his pumpkin-growing career with a Grower Gen2 Jacket Award from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, the “Master’s Jacket” of the pumpkin-growing community.
The jacket is awarded to growers who successfully grow three pumpkins with a combined weight of more than 4,300 pounds. Old Leather needs to be at least 1,030 pounds for Richard to get the jacket.
“Last year, there were only five people on Earth to hit the mark,” he said. “I hope Old Leather is heavy!”
Richard will be basking in the glory of the 2023 pumpkin growing season for years to come. His best pumpkin, Marion, is the second-largest pumpkin ever grown in the state of Wyoming.
Yet, he knows that record won’t last much longer. On his way back to Worland, Richard stopped to see his friend and fellow pumpkin grower Andy Corbin in Cheyenne, who has four greenhouses for four individual plants.
Corbin holds the current state record for the 1,854-pound pumpkin he grew in 2022. He brought a pumpkin to the Annual Giant Pumpkin Festival and Weigh-Off in Littleton, which weighed around 1,550 pounds.
That was his “small one,” Richards said, adding that this year Corbin has outdone even himself.
“He has at least one of them at the 2,000-pound mark. And they are still growing, so I think he’s hanging on to get every pound he can on them,” he said.
Richard says there can be intense secrecy and speculation in Wyoming’s pumpkin-growing community, but there’s very little rivalry. Everyone supports each other, and they enjoy each other’s successes.
“Andy Corbin and his wife are a great team. They’re excellent and super nice people, very informative and friendly,” Richard said. “I have a lot of respect and look up to him. He’s doing some awesome things. It’s been a real blessing to get to him, and it helps me get to the next level. You’ve got someone else in the sandbox to play with.”
Corbin won’t bring a pumpkin to the Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off in Worland this weekend, instead choosing weigh-offs closer to Cheyenne. Nobody wants to drive a massive pumpkin too far down the highway.
Look what Joanie did to Richard’s truck. Pumpkins can be prima donnas, too.
Andrew Rossi can be reached at email@example.com.