One thousand, five hundred and eleven (and a half) pounds.
That’s the weight of this year’s Barnesville Pumpkin Fest Grand Pumpkin winner, grown by Todd Cotterman. Cotterman said it took about four hours a day, every day, to grow such a beast. Add that up, and the five-hour drive to Barnesville from his hometown of Fenton, Michigan, seems measly. He said dedication to growing was key to victory. In addition to a trophy, he will receive $2 per pound for the 2018 king.
"You have to say no a lot," Cotterman said. "Want to go out for ice cream? No, I have to stay home and water the pumpkin. It’s a lot of commitment."
Cotterman said he was surprised to have won. He’s come down the last few years and has typically been beaten by Todd Skinner, a local grower and last year’s winner. Skinner did not enter a pumpkin this year, the 55th edition of the fest.
"I felt better when I hear that," Cotterman said about Skinner. "But I still would’ve brought one."
Skinner said he’d planned on taking the year off intentionally, opting to grow a green squash instead. It came out "snow white." His record-breaking pumpkin last year came in at 2,150 pounds, smashing the state record. All of the growers commented on how the weather had affected the weights.
"It’s been a poor year for everybody," Cotterman said. "It’s all about the weather."
His last-minute victory made for a dramatic ending to the evening — his was the last pumpkin to be weighed, and his weight wasn’t announced until 15 minutes after the event had officially ended. For most of the night, local grower Chuck Gradehouse had been winning. Gradehouse said he hadn’t planned on winning; his goal was to reach the top five.
Tim Miller, coordinator of the event, said you never know who will win for sure until it’s all said and done. All part of the drama.
Cotterman said even he didn’t know how much the pumpkin was going to weigh..
"I bought a new tractor this year, and (it) wouldn’t pick it up," Cotterman shrugged. "I was guessing about 1,500."
This is the farthest he drives to compete every year, with the next farthest about an hour closer.
"I like the setup," Cotterman said. "I love that it’s a small town, and the weighing is just right in the middle. The director is a nice guy too."
It takes a special kind of person to put that much time into growing. Miller said the growers, especially the good ones, have a certain personality to them.
"I’d say they have an addiction to this," Miller sad. "It takes up so much money and time — you’re talking about hours and hours in a garden playing around with a pumpkin. Most people wouldn’t do that. These people live to grow."
While he was still celebrating his victory, Cotterman was already planning his next competition.
"I think I’ve got a bigger [pumpkin] at home," he said. "That one’s going to Dublin."