California contest dubs 1,969-pound pumpkin the plumpest

Jack La Rue, left, of Tenino, Wash. and Jim Sherwood of Mulino, Ore., arrive with their giant pumpkins to participate in the Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015, in Half Moon Bay, Calif. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP)

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. — A rippled white gourd weighing in at 1,969 pounds took the title Monday for plumpest pumpkin at an annual San Francisco Bay Area contest.

Growers gathered with their gargantuan gourds to try to break the world record of 2,323 pounds, set by a Swiss grower during a competition in Germany last year.

It didn’t happen.

But the winning entry at the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco, was no small feat. Steve Daletas of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, won $12,000 for the lumpy, 1,969-pound gourd he grew.

“It’s been a good year,” he said after the contest. “I’ve never grown an official 1,900-pound pumpkin before.”

Forklifts and special harnesses carefully placed the massive pumpkins on an industrial-strength digital scale with a capacity of 5 tons as officials from the county agricultural commissioner’s Office of Weights, Sealers, and Measures kept close watch.

Second place went to Ron and Karen Root of Citrus Heights, California, for their 1,806-pound entry. A $500 prize also was awarded to the “most beautiful” pumpkin based on color, shape and size.

With California in its fourth year of drought, some said the dry soil deflated their pumpkin-growing dreams.

“No doubt about it,” Gary Miller of Napa, the 2013 winner, told Bay Area news station KNTV. He entered a 1,303-pound pumpkin.

Last year, grower John Hawkley set a North American record with a 2,058-pound entry. He returned to defend his title, but his pumpkin registered 1,447 pounds.

Organizer Tim Beeman said the contest kicks off the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival this weekend.

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