TORRINGTON – Pumpkin flavored treats, painted pumpkins and pumpkin t-shirts were merely a lead-up to the Goshen County Fairgrounds’ main attraction on Oct. 3: the annual Giant Pumpkin Contest hosted by Goshen County Master Gardeners.
According to Linda Farrier, GCMG secretary/treasurer, eight adult growers and three kiddos hauled their pumpkins to the fairgrounds in the contest’s fifth year to see whose would be dubbed the largest. Producers came from around Nebraska and Wyoming to participate in the unofficial competition, which is not part of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth and thus does not have to follow its standards and regulations.
Jay Richards led the pack with his 1,238 pound pumpkin, followed by France Stinchcomb, whose pumpkin weighed in at 759 pounds and Andy Corbin close behind with a 743 pounder.
In the children’s division, brother and sister took first and second. Gunner Newcomb, 10, came in first, followed by Charley Newcomb, 8.
In her first year participating in the contest, five-year-old Lydia Larson’s bright orange pumpkin weighed in at 50 pounds. She proudly claimed her pumpkin when her name was announced, raising her hands in the air in the arms of her grandfather, Mark Muñoz.
Muñoz said he and Larson were already growing a pumpkin before they saw an advertisement for the contest, and they decided to see how it stacked up against the competition.
What does it take to grow a pumpkin of that size?
“Lots of water and just keeping an eye on it,” Muñoz said. “We’ll probably do it again next year to see if we can get bigger.”
Participants’ gave away their giant pumpkin seeds at the event at no charge so attendees could try their hand at growing their own giant pumpkins.
Farrier said growers had donated seeds in the past, but this year, she will keep a spreadsheet of recipients to track which pumpkins are produced from which seeds down the road. That way, producers can see how the progeny of their pumpkins fares in future seasons. In fact, Farrier said the GCMG would host another giant pumpkin contest in the spring.
“There’s a whole thing about the giant pumpkin world, and where these seeds originate,” Farrier said. “And there’s databases on it, so I started ours so this year so we could start tracking who got our seeds, who showed up (to the contest), if it was it one of the seeds we gave them.”
Third place winner Corbin, a competitive grower for 10 years and lifelong giant pumpkin enthusiast, knows a thing or two about growing giant pumpkins and shares his talents with the community. Not only does he distribute his own seeds free of charge, but he also manages a website called pumpkinfanatic.com with information on growing pumpkins along with a database listing pumpkins, their growers, their weights accompanied by photos to track progeny. This database complete with family trees is available at tools.pumpkinfanatic.com
For instance, in the database, Corbin could track the lineage of his 2019 state record-breaking 1,491 pound pumpkin. Corbin said Richards’ winning pumpkin in Torrington Oct. 3 is a descendant of that pumpkin.
“It’s an honor when someone grows your seed,” Corbin said. “If someone grows a bigger pumpkin than what I’ve grown with that seed, that just shows the genetics are good and that seed is gonna be a viable producer for other people out there as well.”
Corbin said he considers Torrington one of Wyoming’s banana belts, an area with warmer weather conditions and thus optimal growing conditions.
“There has to be a Torrington grower, I’m hoping, that’s really interested in growing pumpkins,” he said. “Pumpkins grow best in the evening, and they grow best when the temperature is below 75 degrees and above 60 degrees in the evenings. You don’t get too many places in Wyoming that meet that criteria.”
As a representative of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, Corbin said he hopes Torrington and the GCMG might consider becoming an official site down the road.
Though this was his first year bringing a pumpkin to Torrington, he said he’d like to come back.
“When I didn’t have any big pumpkins to take down I was like, I don’t know if I really want to take a small pumpkin down there,” Corbin said. “But it was fun. Torrington’s more of a growing community than Cheyenne by far, they have a much better climate for growing.”