PALMER — Anchorage resident Dale Marshall squashed the Alaska State Fair record for giant pumpkins Tuesday afternoon.
“I’m over the moon about this right now… None of us thought 2,000 pounds,” Crop Superintendent Kathy Liska said.
Marshall’s prized pumpkin came in in at 2,051 pounds, well above the previous record and his own expectations.
“I’m just on top of the world,” Marshall said.
The crowd was massive during the weigh-off, with eager fairgoers filling the bleachers and circling the pin to see if Marshall could break the record this year. When the final weight came in, the barn erupted with cheers and applause.
“It’s phenomenal,” Liska said.
Marshall was visibly overjoyed and threw his hands up with up in the air. He hugged nearly everyone that circled around him, his family, his friends, the cabbage fairies.
“It’s crazy. 2,000 pounds in Alaska... That is way beyond incredible,” Marshall
This milestone follows Marshall’s trend of breaking his own records over the years. He set the record last year with a 1,471.5-pound pumpkin, which broke the record he set in 2016 by 2.5 pounds.
On top of $1,000 for first place, Marshall gets the satisfaction of greatly exceeding his own expectations with the biggest pumpkin “above latitude 61,” meaning his pumpkin is not only the biggest in the state but entire world north of the 61st parallel north.
“It really puts us [Alaska] on the map, even more so,” Liska said.
He said Belgium currently holds the current world record, and the record for heaviest pumpkin in the U.S. was set in New Hampshire.
He figured he’d come in around the 1,700 to 1,900 range. He was shocked to exceed the 2,000-pound mark. He said the peculiar shape made it difficult to measure. This was actually his second choice. The other one split over the summer at 1,300 pounds. He said that’s common when they expand too fast.
“I should’ve known when the crane was lifting it. It was really creaking, really creaking,” Marshall said.
The weigh-off was day 89 from pollination, according to Marshall. He busily attended to his giant gourds in his greenhouse each day, where his routines ran like clockwork. He said that he watered the pumpkins three times a day and some days he’d have to use up to 200 gallons of water.
“Every summer is different,” Liska said.
The unseasonably hot summer with the incessant sun surely prompted special care for gardens across the state. Liska said that Marshall used a tarp inside the green house to protect the pumpkins from burning.
“There’s all sorts of things that come with it… He adjusted well,” Liska said.
On top of the amount of labor, attention to detail, and rolling with the weather’s punches, a giant cabbage grower needs to have the right seed for the job. It takes years of selective breeding.
Marshall buys top quality seeds from across the country. He said the winning pumpkin is an Atlantic Giant and its seed came from New York. He said its mother weighed over 2,400 pounds.
“You have to have the right seed. You can’t go to Lowe’s and buy some giant pumpkin seeds if you think you’re going to get a huge, huge one,” Marshall said.
Hitting 2,000 pounds puts Marshall into the elite class of pumpkin growers, garnering him an honorary jacket from the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, a worldwide organization for pumpkin growers.
“This is elite,” Liska said.
Marshall’s giant pumpkin will be displayed inside the Hoskins Exhibits barn so fairgoers can take a look or a take a picture. Liska said it’s a huge deal for Marshall and his achievement showcases Alaska’s agricultural prowess and grit despite the challenges.
“We really have a special thing going- and the shortest growing season,” Liska said.
Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at firstname.lastname@example.org