The 51st Annual Safeway World Championship
World's Biggest Top Prize – $9/Pound
1st place prize money will be awarded in a “pay-by-the-pound” system with the champion receiving a hefty $9 per pound, in addition to a Pumpkin King Champions Ring, a Mel Mello Sr. Grand Champion Growers Jacket, two nights at the posh luxury hotel The Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, and a starring role in the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival and Great Pumpkin Parade..
World Record Mega-Prize
The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off is offering a special $30,000 mega-prize for the world record breaking pumpkin at the prestigious Half Moon Bay event. To receive the $30,000 mega-prize, the grower must break and hold the world record at the conclusion of the Half Moon Bay Weigh-Off. If two or more growers happen to break the world record at Half Moon Bay, the prize money would go to the grower of the heaviest pumpkin. The current world record heavyweight champion pumpkin is 2,749 pounds held by Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minnesota set at our 50th annual weigh-off event on October 9, 2023! Here's how the $30,000 breaks down: the winner receives a world’s biggest $9 per pound plus the difference to get to a total of $30,000.
Top Prize Money
1st place prize money will be awarded in a “pay-by-the-pound” system with the champion receiving a hefty $9 per pound.
1st Place — $9 per pound
2nd Place — $3,000
3rd Place — $2,500
4th Place — $2,000
5th–10th Place — $1,000 each
11th–20th Place — $200 each
- World Record Pumpkin — $30,000 (total)
- 1st Place Pumpkin — in addition to $9 per pound:
- Biggest California Pumpkin — $1,000
- Biggest Coastside Pumpkin (Montara to Pescadero) — $1,000
- Joe Cotchett Family Most Beautiful Pumpkin — $1,000
- Special GPC plaques and ribbons will also be awarded
Half Moon Bay serves as an officially sanctioned Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) site. The GPC is the major sanctioning body overseeing Giant Pumpkin growing competitions with more than 70 weigh-off locations throughout the world. “Our relationship with the GPC gives pumpkin growers added incentive to bring their biggest to Half Moon Bay and puts us in the mix for a potential world record,” said Cameron Palmer of the Half Moon Bay pumpkin weigh-off. “Giant pumpkin growers bring extraordinary dedication and enthusiasm to their craft and we’re delighted to support and be part of their organization,” said Palmer.
Growers chat at dawn the day of the event (top); lineup for judging of Most Beautiful Pumpkin award (middle); and a massive pumpkin on forklift for transport (bottom)
- The first weigh-off was held in 1974 when officials from the City of Half Moon Bay including then-Mayor Melvin Mello challenged Circleville, Ohio, which then proclaimed itself “Pumpkin Capital of the World", to a weigh-off competition to determine the world's biggest pumpkin.
- John Minaidis of Half Moon Bay won the first weigh-off with a 132-pound pumpkin.
- Prize money for the Weigh-Off is underwritten by Safeway.
- Keys to growing giant pumpkins: superior seed lineage (from a previous giant), rich soil –– prepare using compost, treat with fertilizer (about every other day), profuse amounts of water (keep moist, not too dry or too soggy), mild (not extreme) temperatures (preferably around 90 daytime and 60 at night), long days with plenty of sunlight (but not direct sunlight), bury vine in the soil to promote rooting, and lots of time in the pumpkin patch “TLC" (most of the growers add to the lore with their own secrets).
- Every Columbus Day, about 50 accomplished, veteran growers from Washington, Oregon, California and points east gather for the Half Moon Bay weigh-off to swap seeds, secrets and tips, hoping to capture the coveted title and the cash and notoriety that go along with it.
- Seeds are planted in the spring (April for most growers). Seeds from a giant pumpkin are about the size of a peach pit.
- Giant pumpkins can gain as much as 50 pounds a day, on their best day.
- Once they're cut from the vine, big pumpkins lose an average weight of 6-8 pounds a day.
- Seed varietal used to grow giant pumpkins: Atlantic Giant
- The official weighing will be conducted by the San Mateo County Agricultural Commissioner’s Office of Weights and Measures, using a 5-ton capacity digital scale.
- Every fall, thousands of Bay Area residents visit the coastside to pick pumpkins from the rolling fields of orange along State Highways 1 and 92.
- Depending on conditions, anywhere from 2,000-4,000 tons of pumpkins are grown annually by about a dozen commercial growers in the Half Moon Bay area. They ship pumpkins all over the United States and sell to many of the large retailers in the Bay Area.
- The pumpkin boom can be traced back to growers in the area who began to plant pumpkins in the 1930's. In the early 30’s, teenager John Arata and his brother Clarence began planting pumpkin seeds to to feed the family’s hogs. One day, they were hauling some of their pumpkins along Highway One back to the farm when a passing motorist stopped and asked if he could buy a few. The Arata’s sold the pumpkins for a quarter and a booming pumpkin-picking business and tourist attraction was born.
- The current world record heavyweight champion pumpkin is 2,749 pounds held by Travis Gienger of Anoka, Minnesota set at our 50th annual weigh-off event October 9, 2023!
How It All Began
Sometimes a little seed can go a long way. What started out in 1974 as a fun, light-hearted contest between Circleville, Ohio and Half Moon Bay, California, two cities proclaiming to be the Pumpkin Capital of the World, has grown into Half Moon Bay’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, the Super Bowl of pumpkin weigh-off competitions worldwide.
Lore has it that while visiting Half Moon Bay in 1974, Frank Barnhill, then mayor of Circleville, Ohio, was deeply impressed with the prolific and passionate local pumpkin-growing culture. He met with members of the Half Moon Bay City Council and they agreed to have their two proud pumpkin-loving cities square off in the first head to head pumpkin weigh-off, hauling the largest local gourds to their historic city halls for the official weighing competition. Once concluded, the two mayors got on a phone call to announce their respective winning weight and grower. To formalize the proceedings, county ag representatives officiated both weigh-offs to make things official. That first year, Half Moon Bay’s biggest pumpkin, 132-pounds, grown by John Minaidis, won by one pound. Half Moon Bay brought home the coveted title of Pumpkin Capital of the World and a legend was born.
GPC World’s Top Weigh-Off Site Award
In 2019, Half Moon Bay’s Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off was named as the first ever recipient of the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth’s (GPC) World's Top Weigh-Off site award spanning a 25 year period from 1993-2018. “This inaugural award was presented to the weigh-off site that has weighed the ten heaviest pumpkins in the history of the site being part of the GPC,” said GPC Historian Jack Larue. “In 2018, the GPC sanctioned 114 weigh-off sites worldwide,” said Larue. The top ten pumpkins weighed at the Half Moon Bay site have a total combined weight of 20,414.0 pounds for an average weight of 2,041.4 pounds. The Ohio Valley weigh-off site came in second place with a top ten total combined weight of 20,282.0 pounds for an average weight of 2,028.2 pounds. In third place was the Stillwater Minnesota weigh-off site with a top ten total combined weight of 20,168.0 pounds for an average of 2,016.8 pounds.
Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off Past Champions
|2023 — Travis Gienger, Anoka MN (World Record Pumpkin)||2,749 lbs|
|2022 — Travis Gienger, Anoka MN (North American Record Pumpkin)||2,560 lbs|
|2021 — Jeff Uhlmeyer, Olympia WA||2,191 lbs|
|2020 — Travis Gienger, Anoka MN||2,350 lbs|
|2019 — Leonardo Urena, Napa CA||2,175 lbs|
|2018 — Steve Daletas, Pleasant Hill OR||2,170 lbs|
|2017 — Joel Holland, Sumner WA||2,363 lbs|
|2016 — Cindy Tobeck, Little Rock WA||1,910 lbs|
|2015 — Steve Daletas, Pleasant Hill OR||1,969 lbs|
|2014 — John Hawkley, Napa CA||2,058 lbs|
|2013 — Gary Miller, Napa CA||1,985 lbs|
|2012 — Thad Starr, Pleasant Hill OR||1,775 lbs|
|2011 — Leonardo Urena, Napa CA||1,704 lbs|
|2010 — Ron Root, Citrus Heights CA||1,535 lbs|
|2009 — Don Young, Des Moines IA||1,658 lbs|
|2008 — Thad Starr, Pleasant Hill OR||1,528 lbs|
|2007 — Thad Starr, Pleasant Hill OR||1,524 lbs|
|2006 — Joel Holland, Puyallup WA||1,223 lbs|
|2005 — Joel Holland, Puyallup WA||1,229 lbs|
|2004 — Joel Holland, Puyallup WA||1,229 lbs|
|2003 — Steve Daletas, Pleasant Hill OR||1,180 lbs|
|2002 — Kirk Mombert, Harrisburg OR||1,173 lbs|
|2001 — Steve Daletas, Pleasant Hill OR||1,016 lbs|
|2000 — Kirk Mombert, Harrisburg OR||940 lbs|
|1999 — Jon Hunt, Elk Grove CA||991 lbs|
|1998 — Lincoln Mettler, Eatonville WA||974 lbs|
|1997 — Sherry LaRue, Tenino WA||868 lbs|
|1996 — Kirk Mombert, Harrisburg, OR||808 lbs|
|1995 — Jack La Rue, Tenino WA||875 lbs|
|1994 — (tie) Joel Holland, Puyallup WA and Pete Glasier, Sequim WA||696 lbs|
|1993 — Joel Holland, Puyallup WA||740 lbs|
|1992 — Joel Holland, Puyallup WA||722 lbs|
|1991 — Cindi Glasier, Denver CO||602 lbs|
|1990 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||544 lbs|
|1989 — Mike Pezzini, Prunedale CA||530 lbs|
|1988 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||432 lbs|
|1987 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||429 lbs|
|1986 — Arthur Quint, Castro Valley CA||526 lbs|
|1985 — Arthur Quint, Castro Valley CA||438 lbs|
|1984 — Norm Gallagher, Chelan WA (World Record Pumpkin)||612 lbs|
|1983 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||408 lbs|
|1982 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||307 lbs|
|1981 — Francis Collings, Petaluma CA||337 lbs|
|1980 — Tom Borchard, Salinas CA||275 lbs|
|1979 — Francis Collings, Petaluma VA||349 lbs|
|1978 — Francis Collings, Petaluma CA||298 lbs|
|1977 — Ray Chiesa, Half Moon Bay CA||200 lbs|
|1976 — John Minaidis, Half Moon Bay CA||208 lbs|
|1975 — John Minaidis, Half Moon Bay CA||273 lbs|
|1974 — John Minaidis, Half Moon Bay CA||132 lbs|