This year, Ginger’s goal is to surpass previous pumpkins. He lovingly cared for Michael Jordan, watering the gourds a dozen times a day – with only one goal in mind: the 50th World Pumpkin Weigh-In Championship.
Every year, he and dozens of other gourd growers haul their overgrown winter squash to Half Moon Bay, California, the self-proclaimed “Pumpkin Capital of the World.”
Contestants ship their pumpkins, sometimes across the country, to be carefully measured, weighed and inspected by a panel of judges. Gienger drove 35 hours from his home in Anoka, Minn., with his pumpkins in a trailer attached to the back of his truck.
“It’s hard to fit in,” said Ginger, 43, a horticulture professor at Anoka Technical College.
His hard work paid off on Monday when 6-month-old Michael Jordan tipped the scales at a staggering 2,749 pounds, breaking both the competition and the world record for the heaviest pumpkin.
“I really wasn’t expecting this,” said Ginger, although he has won tournaments with Tiger King and Maverick in previous years.
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When choosing a name, he gave the gourds a nickname that represented the year in which they were grown. Ginger named his 2023 Hulu “Michael Jordan” – named after the basketball star’s jersey number 23.
A pumpkin grower from Spain flew to California this year to see Michael Jordan in person.
“It’s a really cool niche,” Gienger said, explaining that many of the growers who participate in the annual competition become friends. “This is a global field.”
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The Half Moon Bay Arts Pumpkin Festival attracts thousands of visitors each fall for pumpkin-themed events, one of which is the weigh-in. The coastal city is known for its vast pumpkin patches, making it an ideal location for this weekend’s two-day Pumpkin Festival.
A video captured Gienger’s excitement over Michael Jordan as the pumpkin was weighed on a giant scale to break the world record. Hundreds of people in the crowd cheered loudly. The last time anyone broke the world record at Half Moon Bay was in 1984.
In addition to bragging rights, Ginger also won $30,000 for Michael Jordan, a portion of which he said will be used to “reinvest in the hobby,” adding that he plans to leave the rest to His 2-year-old daughter Lily went to college to set up.
The competition was covered by local and international news outlets including KSTP-TV and The Guardian.
Ginger learned a lot about pumpkins from his father, who was also a passionate pumpkin grower. Gienger starts planting seeds in his backyard pumpkin patch in mid-April and harvests in early October.
Extra-large gourds are grown from special seeds designed to produce giant pumpkins. People in the pumpkin growing community often exchange and share seeds.
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“There is a very strong camaraderie among all pumpkin growers,” said event organizer Ronan Fowler. This year’s competition attracted 35 competitors, including some from Washington state, Oregon, Kansas and British Columbia, he said.
Pumpkin “weigh-ins” are held around the world, including in other parts of the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Besides using specific seeds, the secret to growing giant gourds is “labor and love, taking care of the plants, watering, fertilizing, pruning, weeding,” Ginger said, noting that his wife and neighbors help him with the job .
Although Ginger had been growing pumpkins for decades, he was always shocked by how quickly the gourds grew.
At their peak, “they can grow up to 70 pounds a day,” he said.
The current Guinness World Record holder for the heaviest pumpkin is Italian Stefano Cutrupi, who harvested a 2,702-pound pumpkin in Tuscany in 2021. Gienger said he has been in contact with Guinness World Records regarding Michael Jordan, which the organization confirmed to The Washington Post in an email and “is currently awaiting review of the evidence.”
Ginger also shares the world record for the largest girth jack-o-lantern, a title he won last October for carving a pumpkin in the shape of an eagle. Its circumference is 242 inches.
“I can’t wait to do both,” he said, referring to his second world record.
The giant orange pumpkin will be on display during the festival so visitors can pat it and take photos with it. Three runner-up pumpkins will also be on display.
“It’s exciting when you see a pumpkin that big,” Fowler said.
Ginger said the pumpkin “won’t turn into pumpkin pie” after the holidays, explaining that it will be used for upcoming Halloween events. “This is going to continue to be an impressive thing.”
Meanwhile, Ginger was basking in the glory of Michael Jordan. He hopes next year’s pumpkins will be bigger.
“It just puts a smile on people’s faces,” he said.