Some people turn into temporary pumpkin enthusiasts during the fall season, but for others, their passion for pumpkins is so giant that it draws them to a unique type of competition.
On Monday, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off commenced for the 49th year in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
The winning gourd weighed in at 2,560 pounds and belonged to Travis Gienger, a horticulture teacher from Minnesota. Gienger also took first place in 2020 with a 2,350-pound pumpkin.
The prize pumpkin set a new North American record, according to organizers, but it did not beat the current world record, which was set in 2021 by a 2,703-pound pumpkin in Italy, according to Guinness World Records.
About 30 pumpkin growers took part in this year's weigh-off and the competition itself drew hundreds of attendees, Tim Beeman, a spokesman for the weigh-off, told NPR.
Farmers begin planting seeds in April in preparation for the competition, Beeman said. On the day of the competition, each pumpkin is carefully weighed on a 5-ton capacity industrial-strength digital scale using forklifts and special harnesses.
Beeman said the tradition has been particularly meaningful to people during the pandemic.
"In times like that, people gravitate toward things that bring them a smile on their face," Beeman added. "People derive that from pumpkins — whether it's carving a pumpkin or eating pumpkin pie or seeing a 2,500-pound pumpkin wheeled in on a forklift."
Half Moon Bay, located south of San Francisco, considers itself the pumpkin capital of the world because of its local growers who produce more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins each year.