HALF MOON BAY – An Oregon firefighter who grew a 1,173-pound pumpkin set a new West Coast record at the 29th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay Monday.
Kirk Mombert, 49, of Harrisonburg, Ore., claimed the grand prize and was paid $5 per pound, for a total of $5,865.
Mombert broke the West Coast record of 1,016 pounds set at the coastal event last year by Steve Daletas of Pleasant Hill, Ore. The world record is held by a New Hampshire resident who this year grew one that weighed 1,337 pounds.
About 500 people came to watch Monday's contest to kick off the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. There were 63 entries, with growers hailing from throughout California, Oregon and Washington.
“This was a good year,” event spokesman Tim Beeman said. “We had four pumpkins that weighed over 1,000 pounds.'”
The runner-up was Napa resident Pete Glasier, whose pumpkin tipped the scales at 1,096 pounds. In third place was Jack LaRue of Tenino, Wash., with a 1,036-pound pumpkin.
Ted Krueger won $500 for entering the largest San Mateo County-grown pumpkin, which weighed in at 684 pounds. Guadalupe Haro claimed the award given to largest pumpkin entered by a Coastside resident for growing a 437-pounder in Half Moon Bay. The last time a Half Moon Bay resident won the grand prize was in 1977, when Ray Chiesa entered one weighing 200 pounds, Beeman said.
Only the first-place pumpkin will be on display at the festival this weekend, both in the annual parade and by itself so that visitors can have their pictures taken with it.
“I'm excited to ride in the parade with it Saturday,” said Mombert, who has entered the contest eight times and has won twice before. “I broke my own personal best, so that was great.”
Mombert drove 550 miles Sunday to come to the contest. The bed of his Ford pick-up truck had only two-inches of space left on each side after he loaded the pumpkin with a forklift he had specially delivered from Bend.
The task of hauling the pumpkin to the Bay Area was nothing compared with the work it took to grow a giant pumpkin, though, Mombert says. He said he spent 30-40 hours a week tending to the pumpkin that now measures 38 3/4 inches tall, 58 inches wide, and has walls 9 inches thick.
“I do it just for the love of growing things,” says Mombert, a firefighter with the Eugene Fire Department, who described a two-week period in August when his winning fruit put on about 30 pounds a day.
He says the secret to growing a whale of a gourd is the right seeds, well-maintained soil, lots of manure and calcium, a lot of hard work and attention to detail.
After the festival, Mombert plans to take his prize gourd back to Oregon so a friend can carve it into a jack-o'-lantern that will likely be displayed at a Portland mall for Halloween.