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Archive for Sunday, September 7, 2008

Pumpkin with heft is put to the test as grower frets

September 7, 2008

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If Douglas Heathman has it his way, we're going to need a bigger state fair.

At least, someday, he says about his dream of raising a 1,000-pound pumpkin.

Heathman smiles at this thought. For the past four years, his tiny backyard amid the Seward County seat of Liberal has been overrun by pumpkin vines in an effort to reach his goal.

He's so dedicated to raising the Great Pumpkin that he drove 192 miles to enter a gourd in one of the fair's coveted ginormous vegetable contests.

Heathman's entry looked more like an orange boulder than a pumpkin. What did he give it - steroids?

But Heathman says this pumpkin is no heavyweight.

"It's kind of small," he said sadly as he and a crew of fair workers unloaded the pumpkin from his pickup with a forklift Thursday night.

His first two years Heathman won the contest hands down with pumpkins that topped state fair records.

No one thought any of the others had much of a chance last year after Heathman entered a pumpkin weighing 871.2 pounds.

Then workers weighed Newton residents Brian and Brianna Stanley's pumpkin: It came in 100 pounds heavier.

Ever since, Heathman has promised to regain his title. But standing in the Pride of Kansas Building on Thursday evening, Heathman knew it would be a long shot.

If anyone else shows up, he said, his pumpkin surely would be dwarfed.

"I thought I was doing everything right," he said. "It should have been twice this size."

It was hot in July. Couple that with the plant growing slower than usual.

Still, the state fair scale stopped at 652.7 pounds, a pleasant surprise for Heathman.

"It's a lot heavier than I thought it was," he said.

By this time, just five minutes were left until the entry deadline. Night had fallen, and it felt like someone should have been handing out Halloween candy.

Then it was over. No other pickups or trailers of big pumpkins showed up. And the other two entries were under 150 pounds.

Douglas Heathman has the Great Pumpkin, at least for this year.

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