Two gargantuan pumpkins grown in a Worland greenhouse this summer won giant pumpkin championships in Colorado and Utah this fall. It was the best season in Jay Richard’s pumpkin-growing career.
So, how did he celebrate the success of his prized pumpkins? He blew them up.
Richard and his family were joined by more than 100 Worland residents over the weekend to watch his championship efforts, named Marion and Joani, were dispatched in massive explosions.
“We say the orange mist left over after the demise is the pumpkin gods being released,” Richard told Cowboy State Daily.
The classic dilemma of any massive pumpkin is what to do with it once the plaudits have been won and the season draws to a close. Richard doesn’t have that dilemma, as he has a proven plan for each of his pumpkins each fall.
Marion, Richard’s largest pumpkin, tipped the scales at 1,784 pounds at the Center Street Pumpkin Festival in Logan, Utah. It was one of the largest pumpkins ever grown in Wyoming.
That made it the perfect jack-o-lantern for Worland’s Halloween.
Worland resident Ryan Green carved the pumpkin, turning the first-place finisher into a giant monster face caught in a cargo net. It took him 30 hours to do the carving.
“He said, ‘Remind me: I’ll never do this one this hard again.’ But it was amazing. It was the most intricate carve he’s ever done for me,” Richard said.
The monster Marion sat on Big Horn Avenue the week of Halloween, much to the admiration of passing residents and anyone trick-or-treating.
Green has been carving Richard’s best pumpkins for several years, starting when they were relatively tiny at less than 1,000 pounds. They’ve been getting significantly bigger since, but Richard thinks Green is still up to the task of making something more out of his gourds.
“I think he’ll carve whatever I put in front of him,” he said.
The final send-off for Richard’s two largest pumpkins was Saturday when Marion and Joani, Richard’s 1,686-pounder, were placed side-by-side in a barren field.
The pumpkins had been hollowed out and their innards removed. Instead of placing a candle inside, Richard loaded them with 45 pounds of Tannerite.
Richard, Green and Brandon Yule have made a tradition of blowing up Richard’s pumpkins. Their first attempt was “uneventful,” as 6 pounds of Tannerite was enough to turn a pumpkin into pieces.
“We kind of blew the lid off her and spread it out a little bit,” Richard said. “As time has gone on, we keep adding more and more Tannerite.”
Green kissed the monster Marion before reaching a safe distance to watch the Halloween jack-o-lantern become a Fourth of July firework.
Richard’s son Jackson his 18th birthday by blowing up the pumpkins. He accomplished this by firing a machine gun provided for the occasion by Washakie County celebrated Sheriff Austin Brookwell.
“He got to bring in his adulthood firing a machine gun,” Richard said. “How cool is that?”
Richard spends months of meticulous work growing his massive pumpkins, but nobody takes more delight in watching their demise than him. His third giant pumpkin of 2023, “Leather Tuscadero,” met its end by dropping 175 feet onto a Winnebago at the 2023 Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship Weigh-Off and Oktoberfest.
Richard ran the gauntlet of emotions as he traipsed across the Rocky Mountain Region with his massive pumpkins. But by this point of the year, he’s ready to see his work implode.
“By the time we get to this point, it’s time for them to go,” he said. “They’re a pain. They take up the parking space in my garage, and you can’t just move them. It involves forklifts and tractors and trailers. It’s time for them to go.”
Before the pumpkins met their maker, Richard broke them open to remove all their precious seeds. Those seeds will usher in a new generation of massive pumpkins, and Richard gives them free to anyone who wants to try their hand at growing their own.
When the trigger’s pulled and the gourds disappear, there’s much more satisfaction than sadness.
“For every beginning, there must be an end,” he said. “And we like to put an exclamation point on the end of our pumpkins.”