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Where to Find the Ultimate in Fall Family Travel: The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off!

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Pumpkin festivals aren’t a new thing—many towns hold some kind of festivity to celebrate the harvest. But I’m here to introduce you what I lovingly refer to as the harvest festival on steroids: The Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off! Across the nation, giant pumpkin growers have been patiently biding their time all spring and summer planting seeds, fertilizing, watering and burying vines as they prepare for their moment in the spotlight.

Pumpkin Man with his giant pumpkin

My husband with last year’s 926-pound pumpkin

How do I know all of this? My husband, Jamie, is one of those crazy growers. We are in our fifth season of growing giant pumpkins. I say “we” because it really is a team effort even though I rarely set foot in his hallowed patch. But through my husband’s obsession, I live, breathe and sleep with giant pumpkins. I mean that literally. During the early season when his pumpkins are housed in homemade hoop houses with heaters, Jamie sleeps with a thermometer by his bed to monitor the temperature.

This is the time of year that makes all that insanity worth it to me because these weigh-offs and festivals are the most fun you can have with your family this fall. They are held all over the United States and are often accompanied with festivals, carnivals, haunted houses and Halloween activities.

These weigh-offs are sanctioned by the governing agency of giant pumpkin growers: the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. Nope, I’m not kidding about the name. You can’t make this stuff up.

The current world record was broken last year by Jim and Kelsey Bryson’s 1,818.5-pound pumpkin and it is rumored an even bigger pumpkin is going to scale to Frerich’s Farm Weigh-off in Rhode Island.

World's largest pumpkin

Jim and Kelsey Bryson’s world record pumpkin

My husband says the most popular Great Pumpkin Commonwealth competitions are:

* Topsfield Fair in Topsfield, Massachusetts, September 28-October 8, 2012

* Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival in California, October 13 and 14, 2012

* Frerich’s Farm, Rhode Island, October 6, 2012

* Ohio Valley Giant Pumpkin Growers Weigh-off at Parks Garden Center in Cansfield, Ohio, October 13, 2012

* Bauman’s Farm and Garden in Gervais, Oregon, October 6, 2012

* Giant Pumpkin Festival in Elk Grove, California, October 6 and 7, 2012

Jamie claims, “These are the most talked about weigh-offs because the nation’s biggest pumpkins often end up at these weigh-offs.”

I’ll attest to that.

A few years ago, I surprised my husband with a trip to the weigh-off at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts. As America’s oldest agricultural fair, the week-long festival pulls out all the stops for the ultimate fun family vacation with a midway, unbelievable carnival food, the giant pumpkin weigh-off, grandstand shows and countless competitions for animals, vegetables and even sand sculptures.

Pumpkin weigh-off Topsfield

Topsfield Fair’s heavy hitters

On our bucket list is the Annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin in Half Moon Bay, California. This festival not only hosts some of the biggest growers on the west coast but also has plenty of fun for kids including a pie eating contest, haunted barn, costume contest, pumpkin patches, giant pumpkin photos and much more.

These are just a few of the many giant pumpkin festivals and competitions across the nation. Go to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s website and click on the map to find a weigh-off near you.

Remember Linus’ famous quote in Charlie Brown’s The Great Pumpkin?

“There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”

Two out of three ain’t bad this fall.

Have you ever seen a giant pumpkin and if so, where? Let us know in the comments!

About Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama

Amber Johnson is a fun-loving mom of two. After a whirlwind career as an adventure-travel writer and publicist in Utah’s ski industry, she married and moved to Denver where her family loves skiing, biking, hiking and climbing 14ers (14,000-foot peaks). She is the founder of The Denver Post’s Mile High Mamas, writes a regular “Family Cents” column for the newspaper and has been blogging since 2005 (you can find her at Amber is excited to be a part of the Travel Mamas team and looks forward to chronicling her occasionally-painful but always-hilarious misadventures! You can connect with Amber on Twitter as @TheMileHighMama.

  1. missmagpiefgs says

    Vermont is having it’s Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off this coming weekend! Many of our pumpkins are then used the next day at the Giant Pumpkin Regatta

  2. Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama says

    So fun! I think it’s my husband’s goal to do a nationwide tour of as many weigh-offs as he can. Vermont would be BEAUTIFUL (and fun) this time of year.

  3. Question…how many pumpkin pies can you make out of 900 pound pumpkin?

  4. Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama says

    Phil, waaaay more than I could stomach. 🙂

  5. This is insane. Definitely on my bucket list of things to see. I’ll wait for my son Jack to get big enough to appreciate the size. Wow.

  6. Amber's The Mile High Mama says

    Meg–it really is something everyone should see!

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