The pumpkin trial, which was sponsored by University of Vermont (UVM) Extension 4-H, was open to all Vermont kids, ages five to 18, who wanted to grow giant pumpkins. Participants were given “mystery” seeds in mid-April to plant. Some choose to start their seeds indoors while others direct seeded into the garden when the danger of frost was past.
Weigh-in locations included the Tractor Supply Company (TSC) stores in Derby, Montpelier, Morrisville, North Clarendon, St. Albans and Shelburne and the Paris Farmers Union store in Middlebury. Each contestant was allowed two entries.
The prize for growing the grand champion pumpkin in each of two categories, Big Moose, an orange variety, and Full Moon, a white variety, was a $50 TSC gift card. The grower of the heaviest pumpkin for each variety at each of the seven weigh-in locations received a $20 TSC gift card. All participants received a certificate and ribbon.
Youths who submitted their records, detailing everything from weight predictions for their mature pumpkins to planting, growing and harvesting, were eligible for a special drawing. The winner was eight-year-old Naomi Ellis, who entered a 68.8-pound Big Moose pumpkin that she grew in Franklin. She won a $20 TSC gift card.
In the Big Moose division, Mikayla Cadieux of Beebe Plain had the grand champion pumpkin, which weighed in at 156 pounds. She also grew the second-heaviest pumpkin in the competition with a weight of 150 pounds. The top entry in the Full Moon division, a 132.8-pound pumpkin, belonged to John Griffiths of Johnson.
Individuals who earned a $20 TSC gift card for heaviest entries at each store were:
DERBY: Big Moose — Mikayla Cadieux, Beebe Plain (156 pounds); Full Moon — Luke McReynolds, Danville, (80 pounds)
MIDDLEBURY: Big Moose — Mason McAdams, Brandon (90.3 pounds); Full Moon — Isabella Williams, Brandon (100.7 pounds)
MONTPELIER: Big Moose — Nicole Cutler, Moretown (84.2 pounds); Full Moon — Nicole Cutler, Moretown (101.6 pounds)
MORRISVILLE: Big Moose — no entries; Full Moon — John Griffiths, Johnson (132.8 pounds)
NORTH CLARENDON: Big Moose — Betsy Coburn, Castleton (98 pounds); Full Moon — no entries.
ST. ALBANS: Big Moose — Madysen Whitney, Franklin (102.9 pounds); Full Moon — Austin Whitney, Franklin (48.9 pounds)
SHELBURNE: Big Moose — Emily Carpenter, Richmond (66 pounds); Full Moon — Xavier DeBlois, Ferrisburgh (49 pounds)
According to Martha Manning, the UVM Extension 4-H educator who organized the Vermont 4-H Pumpkin Trial, 354 youths from 12 counties participated.
“I choose the Big Moose and Full Moon varieties because they both had the potential to reach mature weights in the area of 150 pounds,” Manning says. “It was exciting to see some of the pumpkins exceed those weights.
“All the youths who brought pumpkins in for the weigh-ins shared tips about how they got their pumpkins to grow well and how they felt they could get even larger, heavier pumpkins next year. This was an amazing family project that involved multi-generations as well as individual youths.”
Another trial is planned for next summer with other “mystery” varieties of giant pumpkins. Anyone, age five to 18, who would like to participate may contact Martha Manning at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the 2015 Vermont Pumpkin Trial mailing list.