Photo by: Jennifer Compston – Strough
On Wednesday night, records were broken again in Barnesville when a Pennsylvania grower brought the largest King Pumpkin Weigh-Off specimen.
Eric Gunstrom watched with great interest as Barnesville Pumpkin Festival officials placed their huge gourd on the scale. It was 2,405 lbs. Tim Rockwell, Festival President and event announcer, said that the huge, orange pumpkin set both a site record and a record for the largest pumpkin ever grown in Pennsylvania. It also beat the Ohio state record for pumpkins of 2,195 pounds set by Jeff Theil, King Pumpkin grower from Dillonvale last year.
Gunstrom said he has been coming to the Barnesville festival for several years and finished in among the top three growers for three consecutive years — 2010, 2011 and 2012. In fact, his 10-year-old daughter hadn’t even been born yet when he last placed among the top finishers. She and her older brother help with the family pumpkin garden.
“It’s just something we enjoy doing as a family,”Gunstrom said.
He stated that his family spent at most 30 hours a week in the patch over the past month. They gave their pumpkins plenty of water and cared for them with a cotton towel to clean dirt and pollen. He said that he had spent many days at camp with his daughter and neglected the patch. He believed that this may have contributed towards their success.
“It gave me good mojo — good luck — spending time with my kid at camp,”He said.
Gunstrom stated that it has been possible to grow a huge pumpkin that is also a beautiful orange shade only in recent years. In the past, he said, genetics simply wouldn’t allow for enormous gourds to retain that classic color. He carefully selects the genetics for his crops today to ensure that he can achieve the color and weight he wants.
He stated that the key to success lies in the weather, giving a lot water (noting his wife is not happy with the water bill at this time of the year), and hard work. In order to maintain a pumpkin’s beauty, the family is careful not to even touch the fruits for their first 25 days of growth. That way, they help ensure that the tender skin won’t be damaged.
According to 2022 weigh-off results listed on the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth’s website late Wednesday, this year’s heaviest pumpkin weighed in at 2,359 pounds prior to the Barnesville weigh-off, which appeared to break that mark.
Other top finishers Wednesday included:
– Dave and Carol Stelts of Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, at 2,069 pounds
– Todd and Donna Skinner of Barnesville at 2,068 pounds
– Bill Neptune of New Concord, Ohio, at 1,795 pounds
– Rick Kisamore of Atwater, Ohio, at 1,562 pounds
– Brant and Liz Powell of Barnesville at 1,102 pounds