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Fall Follows Fame (Sort of) for Worland Giant Pumpkins

October 29, 2015
head portrait of man
Jay Richard, who grew Washakie County’s largest-ever recorded pumpkin, is at the weigh-in at the Lungren Girls’ Farm. (UW Extension Photo)

Time is running out for a couple of upstart giant pumpkins in Worland.

Maximus and Gourdon (‘Gourd-on’) burst onto the scene last spring, the subject of Twitter tweets, YouTube videos and a grower’s blog at Big Pumpkins.com. They have their own Facebook page (search Gourdon and Maximus – The Giant Pumpkins of Worland, WY).

Worland seems to be growing a patch of pumpkin fanatics.

Caitlin Youngquist, a University of Wyoming Extension educator, introduced the aptly named Maximus and Gourdon on her “Dr. Caitlin” website in March, and the pair just kept growing, literally.

A soil scientist in Washakie County and the Big Horn Basin, Youngquist specializes in soil health, compost, organic waste management -- and giant pumpkins.

Her “Dr. Caitlin” site (http://bit.ly/DrCaitlinGiantPumpkins) covers hot topics to growers, such as pumpkins’ chemical makeup, male and female flowers, fungus and root relations, and eating baby pumpkins -- which she did, grilled, with salmon.

Washakie County grower Jay Richard nurtured Maximus and Gourdon from Dill’s Atlantic Giant pumpkin seeds, with Youngquist advising and shooting how-to videos on her cell phone. Like a proud papa, Richard posted photos and growth reports on Big Pumpkins.com.

Both pumpkins have flat bottoms, he says, but Maximus developed a collapsed top.

“It was a genetic mutation,” he says. “I was advised to just pull him, because he would never amount to anything.”

Though Maximus was supposed to be the star, Richard pinned new hopes on Gourdon. Both pumpkins lived for one thing -- the big weigh-in at the Lungren Girls’ Farm Sept. 27.

On the big day, pickup trucks and flatbed trailers hauling hefty pumpkins arrived at the Girls’ Farm south of town. Maximus and Gourdon sprawled across their wooden pallets. A forklift offloaded them beside other orange hopefuls (http://bit.ly/PumpkinWeighing).

“We found it was a good way to get people excited about growing giant pumpkins,” says Younquist, who had two, Maybelle and Missy, in the running.

“It was an adrenaline rush,” says first-year grower Kevin Diede. “My pumpkin started off like a rocket ship, but it slowed down when I stopped singing to it. You can’t go out every night with the guitar.”

As kids wandered through the 12-acre, USA-shaped corn maze at the Lungren Girls’ Farm, the contenders were fork-lifted onto the certified scale. Gourdon busted the county record at 596 pounds. The genetic mutant, Maximus, weighed in at a respectable 490.

With celebrity status cinched, the punk stars set out on tour. Richard took time from his auto detailing business to accompany his “kins” to four schools, the Kiwanis Club and the local nursing home. They even rode in the homecoming parade Oct. 2. The homecoming theme was “Squash ’em.”

“The end of the line is when they get carved,” says Richard.

Gourdon was carved by Ryan Green, who Richard calls a “master,” in an exhibition Oct. 28 in front of Blair’s Grocery Store. Green prepared by making a model of Gourdon, using about a hundred photographs and a 3-D printer.

Richard pulled the seed from the gutted vegetable to donate to the high school horticulture class and any would-be growers who join his contest class in the spring. He already has 10 signed up.

Worland pumpkins will return to Lungren Girls’ Farm Oct. 30 for the Second Annual Pumpkin Gutting, a carving contest where the much-altered Gourdon will make its last public appearance.

Richard confided the ultimate demise of Maximus and Gourdon will be over the fence to feed goats.

“You go into it with a guess and a by-golly,” he says. “I can’t wait to do it again next year.”


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Chad Baldwin

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