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Hoping for the big prize

SPICER -- Chad Revier has been tenderly nursing his pumpkins this summer, trickling fish emulsions, seaweed extract and compost tea into the sturdy vines that feed the mammoth gourds in his rural Kandiyohi County pumpkin patch.

The results have been stunning.

There are three beasts in his garden. One is estimated to weigh 1,500 pounds.

Revier, who began experimenting with giant pumpkins a couple years ago, will be taking all three pumpkins to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth pumpkin contest in Stillwater next weekend. The sanctioned event will draw pumpkin growers from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and South Dakota.

Revier has his hopes set on taking the $1,000 grand prize and, best of all, the Minnesota state record for the biggest pumpkin.

He truly doesn't care about the prize money, he said, it's the prestige among other giant pumpkin growers that matters. "The state record is my goal," said Revier.

There's a quiet buzz of unconfirmed rumors about the size of contenders in the giant pumpkin growing community that leads Revier to believe that his pumpkin could be the biggest one at the show.

"This is the one," said Review, while gazing at the 1,300-plus-pound, crack-free pumpkin he's confident will take the prize.

The state record is 1,258 pounds.

He figures his pumpkin will put on another five pounds each day during the next week and could weigh close to 1,400 pounds by showtime.

Although he already has a 1,500-pounder in the back of the garden, a few small cracks in the skin that developed during its speedy growth makes it ineligible for the contest. He will still take it to the show next week as an exhibit, he said, but his biggest pumpkin won't be the prize-winner.

Growing a giant pumpkin is an art that can be either helped or hindered by the weather.

The cold spring weather made this year challenging, he said. The cold snap a couple weeks ago didn't help either.

He added a few new techniques this year that helped offset the weather complications including an automated irrigation system and a new way to brew his homemade fertilizer in a 40-gallon barrel with a commercial air tank.

During the day he covers the pumpkins with old bed sheets to keep the skin soft to prevent cracking. During cool evenings they're cuddled under thick blankets.

The garden is surrounded by a fence of field corn to provide wind protection and mouse traps around the pumpkins have snagged more than a dozen potential predators.

He's worked out a plan to lift the giants from their patch.

The first step will be to cut the vines about three feet from the main stem.

A complicated contraption made of old seat belts, a large metal ring, straps and reinforced pallets will be used to nudge the pumpkins from the garden and onto a trailer.

The final technique could be likened to feeding a Sumo wrestler as he's walking into the ring. Revier will take gallon bags filled with water and tape them to the vines to pump every last pound into the pumpkin before the contest weigh-in.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for 35 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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