Utah pumpkin growers ready for big weigh-off

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SALT LAKE CITY -- A big weigh-off is planned for Saturday at Thanksgiving Point. Giant pumpkin growers from all over the state will bring their huge gourds in hopes of breaking a state record that hasn't been touched in four years.

Andrew Israelsen's prize pumpkin is one of two hopefuls that have a pretty good chance of squashing the record.

"It's a big, wide pumpkin," Israelsen says. "I don't even think I could get my arms around it."

Israelsen has been growing pumpkins for years, but this year he has a chance of breaking Utah's giant pumpkin record weight: 1,104 pounds.

"Sometimes at night I'll come out here, look at the pumpkin; come back the next morning and, whoa, you can see how it's grown just overnight," he says.

During its peak, the vines grow up to a foot and a half a day. The pumpkin can put on 40 pounds a day.

"Nothing else grows as big as a pumpkin, and it's just fun to watch these things grow," Israelsen says.

He planted a seed in April, and now all the vines and leaves of the pumpkin have grown out of control.

"I know of one other pumpkin that's kind of in this range," Israelsen says.

That would be Matt McConkie's giant pumpkin he's growing in Washington Terrace.

"Mine is gaining eight pounds a day right now," McConkie says.

He leases farm land to grow his monster pumpkin, which he says plays a major role in getting his pumpkin to grow so big.

"The first thing is the soil. You want to get really good soil," he says.

McConkie has only been growing a few years, but he is hooked.

"I do it just for the fun, really" he says. "It is fun to watch them grow."

He also thinks it would be really cool to break Utah's record, but it's what happens after the big weigh in that McConkie is really looking forward too.

"My plans are to drop it from a large crane just to watch it splat," he says.

Israelsen says he plans to give his pumpkin to the Hogle Zoo for the elephants to eat.

Whichever pumpkin tips the scale, both growers hope it will be the largest pumpkin Utah has ever seen.

E-mail: abutterfield@ksl.com


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