pumpkin.jpgHundreds of spectators were in Half Moon Bay Monday morning to size up dozens of oversized pumpkins and find out which was the heaviest in the city’s annual World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.

The massive pumpkins – some standing 4 feet tall – were trucked to a downtown square from farms in California, Oregon and Colorado for the 37th weigh-off competition since 1974, when city officials proclaimed Half Moon Bay the “Pumpkin Capital of the World,” according to the event’s organizers.

Using forklifts and special harnesses to hoist the orange competitors onto an industrial-strength digital scale, officials from the San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office of Weights, Sealers and Measures determined the heaviest to be a 1,535-pound pumpkin grown by Ron Root of Citrus Heights, Calif.

Root took home a cash prize of $9,210 for his pumpkin – $6 for every pound – and said his secret was ” a lot of water, a lot of sun and a lot of luck.”

A marching band from Half Moon Bay High School played the theme song from the movie “Rocky” as the winning pumpkin and its grower took the stage to claim the heavyweight title before a delighted crowd.

Root said his pumpkin was seeded in May and pollinated in July, and after 35 days it just kept growing.

Giant pumpkins can gain as much as 25 to 30 pounds a day during the summer growing season, according to the San Mateo County Farm Bureau.

The winner fell short of last year’s top heavyweight from Des Moines, Iowa, which at 1,658 pounds was the heaviest pumpkin ever to win the weigh-off.

Root wasn’t the only winner of the day as a competition for the most beautiful pumpkin also took place during the festivities.

Judged by audience applause, a glossy bright orange pumpkin named “Bubbles” grown by Olivia Zunino of Los Altos was clearly the crowd favorite, earning the most beautiful pumpkin title and a cash prize of $500.

Zunino said it was just genetics that made her pumpkin so pretty.

Barry Todd of Littleton, Colo., trucked out his entry, which weighed in at 1,306 pounds, beating that state’s record for the heaviest pumpkin by 2 pounds.

Organizers said there were 13 pumpkins in this year’s competition that weighed more than 1,000 pounds–the most to tip the scales at more than a half-ton in the history of the event.

Monday’s competition was the first event in Half Moon Bay’s Art & Pumpkin Festival, which will take place in the city on Saturday and Sunday. The giant pumpkins entered in the contest will be on display.

Chris Cooney, Bay City News

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