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Exploding 1,000-Pound Pumpkins & State Records Broken at Wyoming State Pumpkin Championship

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

Although the atmosphere was festive throughout, it wasn’t until the promise of exploding thousand-pound pumpkins that the spirits turned raucous.

And with that, the crowd size grew going from a couple hundred at the beginning of the day to more than a thousand by the time the pumpkins met their spectacular demise.

It was kind of a cross between a massive tailgating party and a parade for what Jay Richard, the organizer of the Wyoming State Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off and Pumpkin Drop, called the “stupidest event of all time which makes it awesome.”

Judging by the reaction of the kids alone, it was awesome.

The opening event was fun enough. 

Giant fruits and vegetables — many of which could only be lifted by industrial-strength forklifts — being weighed on industrial strength scales to determine if any were heavy enough to break state records.

There were two record breakers, in fact.

The Cowboy Skill scale — named after the event’s presenting sponsor — recorded Wyoming’s heaviest watermelon and Montana’s heaviest pumpkin.

The watermelon, grown by Worland’s Dawson Utterback came in at 40 pounds and Jason McGimpsey grew a 1,200 pound pumpkin which bested Montana’s old record by 32 pounds.

Because Mr. McGimpsey is from Billings and Montana does not have an official pumpkin-weigh-off event, he entered in the Wyoming event which is a member of the the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth — the sanctioning body which oversees these events.

Wyoming’s state record — set in 2019 by Cheyenne’s Andy Corbin with a pumpkin of 1,491 pounds — stayed intact.

It wasn’t expected to. Richard was growing a monster.

Macy (he names all of his pumpkins) topped 1,500 pounds a month ago. Last week, she was nearing 1,600 pounds. 

The colossal gourd was a lock. All he had to do was keep Macy together.

Any injury to the pumpkin’s core, Richard explained, would disqualify the pumpkin.

But on Thursday afternoon, only two days before the official event, disaster struck. Richard discovered a mouse had burrowed into the pumpkin’s core.

“It’s a lot like a race car driver on a 500-mile race coming around turn four, blowing a tire and hitting the wall,” Richard told Cowboy State Daily.

So what was Richard to do?

Send her off with a bang. Literally.

Macy was the first of four thousand-pound-plus pumpkins to be lifted by a 200-foot crane and dropped in the field adjacent to the truck repair shop.

Putting Macy in the sling got messy. The 82 degree heat was weakening Macy’s already weakened exterior.

She started collapsing on herself. 

Then a much larger hole opened up and she started belching out gallons of yellow liquid.

“The is hilarious,” one of Richard’s colleagues laughed.

Richard had no time recognize the humor.

With all the urgency of a Scottie to Captain Kirk conversation, Richard yelled, “We gotta get her up in the crane now. I can’t hold her any longer. She’s falling apart.”

They slapped the sling to the crane and she she began elevating.

She didn’t make the full trip. About halfway up, chunks started falling and Richard pulled the plug. Macy was airborne.

With a thud, his would-be champion was no more. She exploded on the target: a snowmobile mounted on an Isuzu Trooper.

Richard explained that he hates winter so a snowmobile was a perfect target, he said.

The three other pumpkin drops were much like the first — outside of the belching liquid.

The kids cheered. The adults laughed. And the snowmobile and Isuzu got demolished.

After the last pumpkin dropped causing the front tires of the Isuzu to blow-out, the safety tape was let down and the kids ran out to grab pieces of pumpkin like an Easter egg hunt.

One child was disappointed when he was told he could not take the football-sized chunk of orange goo home with him.

“What would you do with it,” the child’s mother asked him.

“I don’t know. Put it in my room,” he said.

The mom won.

Richard thinks he’ll eventually win too. 

He’s already planning for next year and might have a greenhouse (mouse-proof) big enough to grow a champion for the 2022 season.

Long term, he wants to join the one-ton club. That’s an exclusive group of growers who have successfully birthed a 2,000 pound pumpkin.

“Might take me awhile but who knows? That’s my goal eventually,” Richard said.

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Worland Man’s Pumpkin Now 1,300 Pounds; Aiming For State Record

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Jay Richard of Worland spent part of Sunday measuring pumpkins.

And while it may seem like an unusual way to spend the day, it certainly was productive — his largest weighed in at approximately 1,304 pounds — almost twice the weight of last year’s largest pumpkin at 713 pounds.

“I started involving science this year and frequent testing of the soil, plus I’m following different fertilizer recommendations,” Richard told Cowboy State Daily on Monday. “This is what the tape measurer says so far, but the tape measurer can lie. The scale doesn’t lie.”

For the last few years, Richard has been growing pumpkins from Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds, which can produce pumpkins ranging in size from a few hundred pounds to nearly 1,500 pounds.

Currently, he is outpacing his own largest pumpkins and in his effort to take the record for Wyoming’s largest pumpkin.

The record is currently held by a grower in Cheyenne who offered up a pumpkin weighing 1,491 pounds.

Richard grows three giant pumpkins every year, planting them around mid-April and taking them off the vine in late September, just in time for the annual giant pumpkin weigh-in in Worland, which will be held Oct. 2 this year.

Two of the pumpkins are explicitly grown to be “show pumpkins,” while the other is intended to be dropped.

Following the weigh-in, there will be a giant pumpkin drop. Last year, the pumpkins were aimed at a large inflatable ball painted to look like a coronavirus germ.

People are allowed to take pieces of the shattered pumpkins after the drop. The giant pumpkins are perfectly fine to eat, although Richard previously told Cowboy State Daily they might be relatively flavorless.

While Richard is gunning for the state record this year, he isn’t necessarily in competition with his fellow growers. Instead, he’s constantly pushing himself to grow a bigger and better pumpkin every year.

This year has been particularly good for his pumpkin crop, with the heat being the best weather element for his gigantic squashes. The warm days will be key for his pumpkins to get as large as possible before the weigh-in in October.

His largest pumpkin is growing at a rate of around 25 pounds per day, Richard said.

“Last year, I kept saying if I had planted two weeks earlier, I’d have been perfect,” he said. “This year, I basically jumped through the window of opportunity and planted April 10 and I’ve just had a really good year with these pumpkins, no bad weather besides a little hail early on.”

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Worland Airman Welcomed Home After 54 Years

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

In January 1967, U.S. Air Force pilot Lt. Alva “Ray” Krogman was shot down over Laos during the Vietnam War — and his family back in Wyoming was unable to say goodbye.

Until now.

After 54 years, the Worland native has finally returned home. Krogman, a 1964 graduate of the Air Force Academy, was just 25 when he was killed in action during the Vietnam War while serving with the Forward Air Controller (FAC) wing in Vietnam. 

His last transmission, “I’m hit,” was sent Jan. 17, 1967, after his aircraft was struck by 37-mm anti-aircraft fire. Although others flying with him saw his plane go down in flames, his final resting place wasn’t discovered until Feb. 14, 2019, and his remains were identified in July of last year.

After the identification, efforts began to send the decorated airman home to Wyoming, culminating with a grand ceremony at the Billings, Montana, airport on Monday, July 19, followed by a procession, with an honor escort, to Worland.

More than 100 motorcyclists, members of the Patriot Guard Riders, joined in the official procession to bring Krogman home after so many decades.

“He’s been in his plane for the last 54 years,” said Kevin Curtis, the Wyoming state captain for the Patriot Guard. “So it’s time to bring him home, and bring him home right.”

The Patriot Guard Riders made up only a fraction of the huge crowds that traveled with Krogman or lined streets in communities throughout the Big Horn Basin — in 111-degree heat — to welcome the Worland pilot back to his hometown. 

The funeral service was held at the Worland Middle School Auditorium, where hundreds of people gathered to honor the young man who gave all to his country. 

A veteran himself, Gary Hobbs, Patriot Guard Riders’ assistant state ride captain for the procession, said the honor and respect shown by the people along the route were befitting of the decorated war hero.

“All the way from Billings, even through the Big Horn Basin, it was just an outpouring of love and respect,” Hobbs said. “And that’s what is very emotional for me, not only to help bring that veteran home, but to see the support in Wyoming, in Montana. Farmers, ranchers, people standing off, completely the whole way along the route.”

As the lieutenant was laid to rest — finally — at the Riverview Memorial Gardens in Worland on Wednesday, family, friends and community members were there to celebrate his life, and honor his sacrifice.

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Doorbell Camera Catches Moron Committing Hit-And-Run in Worland; Apprehended Immediately

in News/Crime
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If there were a criminal handbook, you would think there would be a chapter on the prevalence of video cams and how they really are everywhere.

Maybe one moron thought Washakie County was somehow exempt from technology and they wouldn’t have to worry about it.

They thought wrong.

Turns out a simple doorbell camera took the footage which shows a white four door pickup truck smashing into a parked vehicle which then smashed into a trailer and then quickly leaving the scene.

Added bonus, the doorbell-cam recorded the sound.

Not only did the police have video of the crash itself but they knew exactly what time it happened. 

Then they could post the video (which they did) and enlist the public’s help (which they did) and within two hours the suspected moron was captured.

“Thanks to the public’s help on this,” the post said.  “We appreciate the community’s support with helping us solve this.

“It was fortunate that the homeowner had a doorbell camera in this incident which was very helpful with giving us a direction to go with this investigation,” the police department said.

Had the offending moron stopped and called the police, perhaps they wouldn’t face a laundry list of charges.

Hit-and-run is never a good charge to try to beat — especially when all the evidence is on video.

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Worland Residents Drop 500 – 930 Pound Pumpkins From Giant Crane In Annual Pumpkin Drop

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

On Saturday, Worland residents gathered for a momentous event: the weighing and smashing of giant pumpkins in the town’s annual Wyoming Champion Giant Pumpkin Weigh-In and Pumpkin Drop.

In a 3-minute video, the viewer can get a bird’s eye view of a 170-foot crane used to hoist massive pumpkins high in the air on Saturday afternoon and then drop them to the ground.

Co-organizer Jay Richard told Cowboy State Daily that the pumpkins dropped ranged in size from a little more than 500 pounds to 930 pounds.

Volunteers signed up to have the honor of dropping the pumpkins from 170 feet to the ground, aiming at a giant inflated ball painted to resemble a coronavirus germ.

“You can’t quite see it in the video, but the ball we were dropping it on was supposed to be a coronavirus germ,” Richard said, laughing. “It said ‘Made in China’ and had some other things spray painted on it, but it’s a big coronavirus germ.”

Richard managed to nab the title of having the largest pumpkins, which were not among those that were dropped. His two largest pumpkins weighed in at 1,225 and 1,238 pounds, respectively.

After the pumpkins are dropped, many audience members take the pieces home to give to their animals or even to cook.

The pumpkins are grown from Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds and Richard said they are perfectly fine to eat, even though they might be relatively flavorless.

“I once had someone bring me a cake after the pumpkin drop and it was really good,” Richard said. “I’ll have people call me to ask what we do with the pumpkins after we drop them. We just get out of the way after they fall. People were still loading some of the pieces up when we left on Saturday.”

Richard added that he regularly gives the giant pumpkin seeds away and said there isn’t a trick to growing them. However, he pointed out anyone interested should have good gardening practices and a significant amount of room in their yard to dedicate to the giant squash.

“You have to have good seeds, good soil and good weather and maybe just a little good luck,” he said. “I grow three per year, two for showing and one for dropping.”

Richard’s gardening journey can be followed on Facebook here.

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John Davis: The Coronavirus Comes To Worland, Wyoming

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By John W. Davis, Cowboy State Daily guest columnist

The solitude of the town of Worland and its nursing home have been shattered by an outbreak of coronavirus that has claimed the lives of three elderly people.

Worland is a town of about 5,000 people situated in the southern Big Horn Basin.  For its area, Worland is a large town, the biggest town in almost 90 miles in any direction.  It was founded in 1906 and had its genesis in the construction of three irrigation canals, which established a large irrigated farming area in the dry Big Horn Basin.  

Within only a few years oil was discovered in the area and Worland gained a second leg for its economy.  The town did well through the years, although sometimes suffering from the boom and bust of the energy industry.  It reached its high point of about 6,800 people in 1980, but has since gradually diminished in size.   

About 50 or 60 years ago, a nursing home was built in Worland.  It was probably done as part of a national trend.  The federal Medicare and Medicaid programs provided funding for nursing homes, responding to changes in American demographics because of increases in the lifespans of Americans from medical advances.

The Worland nursing home (now Worland Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center) quickly became part of the fabric of the community, as have similar nursing homes throughout the nation. 

The home was tucked into an attractive residential area in southeast Worland and was considered a welcome addition to the town.  It provided employment for nurses and support staff, and contributed an important service, taking care of a lot of people of advanced age (it’s listed as an 87-bed facility, although usually only houses about 60 residents). 

The facility has been owned by various companies; now it is owned by Five Star Quality Care – Wyoming LLC out of Newton, Massachusetts (near Boston).

In sum, the Worland nursing home has been a quiet and productive addition to the town. 

About the only exciting thing arising from the nursing home was the occasional “escape” from the facility by residents with such conditions as Alzheimer’s disease. 

People living close to the home would frequently note some older person moving slowly away from the nursing home complex, and would kindly call the facility and notify those in charge that someone needed to find the resident and bring him or her back to the home.

But the worlds of small, local nursing homes have been greatly changed with the arrival of the coronavirus.  The first big outbreak in the United States was in the state of Washington, when the virus invaded a nursing home in Richland, about 200 miles east of Seattle. 

The outbreak cut a deep swath of death before Washington state officials controlled it (I remember figures of 30 and 40 deaths).  People throughout the country responded aggressively to fight the virus, although they frequently underestimated its potency.

At first, the efforts of the Worland nursing home seemed to be quite successful.  There were a few cases reported in Washakie County (Worland is the county seat), but they seemed to top out at five. 

In fact, for over a month, there were no new cases of coronavirus and many people in Worland felt that the town had avoided the worst effects of the pandemic.

That attitude has changed radically in the last couple of weeks, after new coronavirus cases appeared in the Worland nursing home. 

The first reports spoke of seven new Wyoming infections in the previous week, all in Washakie County.  The sick were quickly confined to the nursing home and many of us hoped that a strict quarantine would hold down the casualties.  

The number of people afflicted, however, has now ballooned to 32, with three deaths, all three of whom were residents of the nursing home.  Among the 32, twelve residents have contracted the virus, nine members of the staff, and four community-wide members of the community.  

The remaining numbers were apparently “probables,” people who had not tested positive for the disease, but had close contacts with those who had.  The sick were quickly confined to the nursing home and many of us hope that a strict quarantine will hold down casualties.  

A call was placed to the Worland facility, and this reporter spoke to Heidi Glanz, the administrator.  Glanz was courteous, but quite firm in saying that she wasn’t authorized to discuss the outbreak; any such information could only come from corporate headquarters in Boston. 

I could understand that position, as the parent company was going to be very cautious indeed, given the disaster that a coronavirus outbreak represents for a nursing home company.

The “good” thing about this tale is that most of the people infected are young and have not experienced great sickness – many, no symptoms at all.

The State of Wyoming is on the scene here, conducting numerous tests.  I’m sure that everything that can be done is being done, but I hope that the people addressing this outbreak never forget how persistent, sometimes deadly, and very, very contagious this virus can be.    

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Art produced in a hurry for a good cause at Worland’s ‘Mammoth Quick Draw’

in Travel
Quick Draw artist Burge
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Art produced in a hurry and sold to benefit community activities will be the big event this weekend at the Mammoth Quick Draw in Worland.

The eighth annual event on Friday is a fundraiser for both the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center and the Worland Rotary Club that relies in part on the auction of art created by recognized regional artists in one hour.

“We select 32 artists out of all of those who apply and they do a complete painting in about an hour,” said Cheryl Reichelt, director of the Washakie Museum. “Then those are auctioned off. It has been a big success.”

Crowds bid for artwork at the Mammoth Quick Draw in World.
Crowds bid for artwork at the Mammoth Quick Draw in World. The eighth annual Quick Draw, to be held Friday at the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center, sees artists prepare pieces in about an hour. Those pieces are then auctioned to raise money for the museum and the Worland Rotary Club. Over the last seven years, $136,000 has been raised for the organizations (Photos courtesy of the Washakie Museum and Cultural Center)

Attendance at the event, held at the museum, is capped at 500 and in recent years, organizers have had to turn people away at the door, Reichelt said.

“We’ve had people come from Juneau, Alaska, Georgia and all over Wyoming and Montana,” she said. “It’s grown and we’re really very pleased.”

Money raised in the auction of the artwork is divided between the artist, the museum and the Rotary, with the artist being offered 20 percent of the sale price and the Rotary and museum splitting the other 80 percent. Over the last seven years, the museum and Rotary have raised a total of $136,000 for use in their community activities.

Also available for purchase at the event will be almost 180 pieces of existing art prepared by participating artists. The museum receives 30 percent of the purchase price to cover administrative costs.

The $45 ticket price for the night, which will also feature live entertainment by fiddler Erica Murphree and guitarist Billy Browning, includes a dinner and dessert and beverages.

For more information on the Mammoth Quick Draw, visit the museum’s website at WashakieMuseum.org.

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