The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

The student news site of Carlmont High School in Belmont, California.

Scot Scoop News

Half Moon Bay championship weigh-off crowns new world record pumpkin champion

Kiana Chen
Travis Gienger stands proudly alongside his world record pumpkin at the 50th annual Safeway World Championship Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay.

Travis Gienger set a new world record with his 2,749-pound pumpkin called “Michael Jordan.”

Gienger took home the crown at Half Moon Bay’s 50th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off on Monday, Oct. 9. Gienger received the champion jacket and a $30,000 jackpot for breaking the former 2,702-pound world record set in 2021 by Stefano Cutrupi of Italy.

Event organizers anticipated Gienger’s massive pumpkin could be a contender for a new world record, so they brought in a bigger scale for the competition.

When asked how he got into growing pumpkins, Gienger said he started growing pumpkins after finding fascination with the giant-sized ones he saw as a kid.

“Growing up, we went to the state fair and they have the state record pumpkin, and my brother saw it and he was just ‘drooling’ over it,” Gienger’s brother said.

Gienger has been perfecting his growing techniques for 30 years. This year, he carefully monitored the pumpkin’s growth with the changing weather in his hometown of Anoka, Minnesota, since planting the pumpkin seeds in April 2023.

“We run underground heat cables because we have such a short growing season. We live in Minnesota so the soil freezes,” Gienger’s brother said.

Growers, including Gienger, start their pumpkin season between April and May and allow their pumpkins to grow as much as possible before cutting for the weigh-off.

Other parts of the growing process include constant watering and the help of Gienger’s three cats, who work to keep rodents away.

Special seeds allow them to grow up to 70 pounds per day. However, they depend wholly on the water supply to their roots to maintain weight, so pumpkin transport is crucial for competition. Coming from Minnesota, Gienger picked it the latest he could on Saturday morning.

“We drove it all the way here. 35 hours straight,” said Perry Gienger, father of Travis Gienger. “The pumpkin loses five pounds a day, he didn’t want to lose by five pounds.”

The runner-up pumpkin also claimed a new California state record at 2,497 lbs. One of the participants in helping the pumpkin grow is Ron Root of Citrus Heights, California. Root has been competing for many years. He even took home the top prize in 2010.

“I started out with growing normal pumpkins. And then I saw a TV show about giant pumpkins. And that got me interested in those,” said Root. “I ended up growing those a couple of years later.”

Over forty growers of all ages proudly entered their pumpkins in the competition. And the supportive competitors and audience created a warm and fun environment for everyone.

Some families even arrived early to claim their spots, like the Wilkerson family from Sacramento. This was the Wilkersons’ sixth time driving up for the event.

“I like just watching the pumpkins and just being here,” Ty Wilkerson said.

Half Moon Bay celebrated its 50th weigh-off milestone with new prizes unique to the competition, including a specialized ring and a new plaque that will record the names of the weigh-offs past, present, and future winners. The top 20 pumpkins received prize money, with the biggest prizes for the heaviest pumpkins. There were also special prize categories such as the most beautiful pumpkin, which attendees voted on.

Half Moon Bay’s great pumpkin weigh-off has a great history in its quest to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World beyond just the locals. 

“Like everything else, everything has a beginning,” recalled Al Adreveno, the mayor of Half Moon Bay, during their first weigh-off. 

It started in 1974 with the two cities of Half Moon Bay, California, and Circleville, Ohio, claiming to be the pumpkin capital of the world. The first weigh-off was held to settle the debate in which Half Moon Bay reigned victorious with a 132 pumpkin, beating Circleville by one pound.

The pumpkins at the weigh-off also must undergo an examination before being put on the scale. They are checked for anything that may have them disqualified including soft spots, holes, coloration, or even foul play.

“There are judges up here to make sure they’ll inspect the entire pumpkin, and make sure someone didn’t drill a hole and pour some lead in there or something like that,” said Cameron Palmer, President of the Half Moon Bay Beautification Project. “You start getting into this much money people do crazy things so we inspect them all.”

Gienger’s world record pumpkin will be displayed throughout the week and at the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival following the weigh-off, the weekend of Oct. 14-15 on Main Street.

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About the Contributor
Kiana CHen
Kiana CHen, Staff Writer
Kiana (Class of 2026) is a sophomore at Carlmont High School and this is her first year with Scot Scoop. She enjoys taking pictures and connecting with others in her community. Outside of school, Kiana can be found on the soccer field or running for Carlmont's track team.

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