Effort would have been fifth state record for local grower

Giant endeavor

The key to lifting a 1,500-pound pumpkin is in the rigging and planning; once you remove the roof, the 25-ton boom truck takes care of the rest with ease.


While lifting what he thought was sure to be a new state record, J.D. Megchelsen on Monday noticed that his 2013 season’s work had a thumb-sized hole in its underside. His face barely showed disappointment.

“It’s not going to count,” he said. “It’s a bummer, but it’s the rules.”

According to weigh-off rules, entries must be free of rot, holes and cracks that reach through to the cavity, chemical residues and serious soft spots. Had the hole not gone all the way into the cavity, his entry might have made it through to win. Rules are strict, he said.

Megchelsen is the current state record holder for giant pumpkin growing and his 1,287-pound effort from 2011 will likely stand through this year’s competition in Palmer at the Alaska State Fair.

“It’s just killing him,” said Pam Elkins, Megchelsen’s sister-in-law, as she watched the competitor deal with the failed attempt. “He eats, sleeps and dreams pumpkins. All he does is pumpkins.”

After beginning his pursuit of Brobdingnagian pumpkins in 2002, the Nikiski area resident set records in 2004 with a 700-pounder and again in 2005 with a 942-pound pumpkin. In 2006, he grew the first Alaska pumpkin to pass the 1,000-pound mark and then set the standing record in 2011 with a 1,287 pounder.

After a decade in the giant pumpkin growing game, Megchelsen said that only once before, two years ago, has he had a disqualifying hole or crack in one of his giants. That pumpkin was not as big as this year’s, though it might have surpassed it had it kept growing, he said.

This year’s pumpkin was probably growing “too fast” when it opened a hole in a “rib valley” on its bottom side, he said. During the height of its growth spurt in the warmest part of this summer, Megchelsen was feeding the giant up to 300 gallons of water each day.

Megchelsen believes that the hole opened during the first week of August when the fruit hit its peak growth spurt of 41 pounds in 24 hours, two days in a row.

Grown from seed stocks generated by the famous Wallace 1,789, named for its grower and weight, and pollinated by hand on June 5, the pumpkin was the size of a cherry tomato.

Monday, the thing barely fit into the bed of a full-sized pickup truck.

Though the scale on the crane said 1,500 pounds, he figures the state competition scale would have taken the final weight closer to 1,420 pounds.

Megchelsen still plans to take his pumpkin to Palmer for weigh-in day but said he’s not likely to leave it there on display. He’s not exactly sure of what will come of it, seeds may go at auction for a few hundred dollars.


Reach Greg Skinner at greg.skinner@peninsulaclarion.com.