Half-ton pumpkin nets grower $6,000 

Washington farmer takes the top prize for third year in a row

HALF MOON BAY — Donning a T-shirt reading "In search of the great pumpkin" Monday, Joel Holland became the only farmer to twice win back-to-back-to-back championships at the city’s annual pumpkin contest.

The contest kicks off the 36th annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival.

Posing as a prize fighter with his arms held high following his pumpkin’s weigh-in at 1,223 pounds, Holland, of Puyallup, Wash., smiled goodhumoredly as locals asked whether he hadn’t just frozen the same pumpkin from the year before. The six-time winner will take home $5 per pound, or $6,115, in prize money for his efforts.

Holland took home top prize in both 2004 and 2005 with pumpkins weighing 1,229 pounds. He also previously won in 1992, 1993 and 1994.

"That might be a dynasty," festival spokesman Tim Beeman said.

The key to raising a champion pumpkin is stepping up its feeding to every five days rather than seven, Holland said. And what does a "great" pumpkin eat? Calcium, fish powder and seaweed, of course. Another factor in raising his prize-winning pumpkins is the soil of the Puyallup River basin, where Holland makes his home. "The river bottom silt that washes down from Mount Rainier is really deep and holds moisture," he said.

A pumpkin named Artemis, after the Greek goddess of the hunt and fertility, took home second prize overall and won for biggest in California, weighing in at a hefty 1,191 pounds. First-time grower Amanda Zunino, from Los Altos Hills, took the win in stride, crediting her dad, a former third-place finisher, for his help while casually reclining against her giant squash for photos. She took home $2,000 in prize money.

Not to be outdone, the family’s youngest, Tony, won for "most beautiful" pumpkin, turning in a perfectly plump and brilliantly orange crowd favorite at 452 pounds.

Festival Roundup

The annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday. The festival will feature live music on three stages, pumpkin carving, arts and crafts, a haunted house, as well as a variety of foods from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in downtown. As many as 250,000 people are expected to attend the free autumn festival, according to officials. All proceeds from food, parking and more go to support local nonprofit organizations.— Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival

ecarpenter@examiner.com

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