TOPSFIELD — Ron Wallace may have perfected the art of growing giant pumpkins.
Wallace, of Greene, Rhode Island, captured the day Friday at the Topsfield Fair's All New England Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off. It was the third time Wallace has won the competition.
His pumpkin weighed in at 2,114 pound, a new record for the fair, according to Topsfield Fair Spokesman David Thomson. The former record holder was Steve Connolly, who brought a 2,075-pound pumpkin to the weigh-off in 2016.
In addition to growing giant pumpkins, Wallace founded Wallace Organic Wonder, a company that sells the fertilizer he created to help grow giant pumpkins. Today, the fertilizer is used by a range of people from home gardeners, to medical marijuana growers, he said.
According to the Wallace Organic Wonder website, growing the world's largest pumpkin has been Wallace's dream since he was a child.
"Topsfield is one of the top weigh-offs to win," Wallace said. "It's a great one to get under your belt."
As the first place winner, Wallace received an $8,518 check from the fair. Dan and Holly Boyce of Benson, Vermont, came in second place Friday with a 2,017.5-pound gourd, and received a $3,000 cash prize. Scott Marley, of Bellingham, placed third and received a $1,500 cash prize with his 1,846.5-pounder.
As giant gourds were raised and carefully maneuvered onto a scale in a dirt arena at the fair Friday, pumpkin growers from all around New England watched, posing with their pumpkins for photos after their weights were taken. More than one seasoned pumpkin grower said the reason they keep coming back to the fair is because of the friends they've made along the way.
"We all help each other," said George Hoomis, of Ipswich, a judge at the weigh-off. "If someone's pumpkin has a disease problem, we all look at it. It's a competition, but we help each other."
Hoomis was awarded volunteer of the year at the weigh-off along with his wife, Mary Ann Hoomis.
For Thomas Keenan, of Swampscott, growing giant pumpkins is more than a hobby. He said he likes attending the contests with his family, and that after one of his pumpkins is weighed, he likes to bring it to his local police station for the community to marvel at and enjoy.
"It's fun to grow something and come see it get weighed," he said. "And to compete against other like-minded people. I work all day and it's kind of an escape to spend a little time in the garden and grow something. These things grow so quick, it's fun to watch. My whole family finds enjoyment in it."
In all, 23 giant pumpkins were weighed in the 2018 competition. Several people were forced to pull out of the contest, however, because their pumpkins had died.
According to Topsfield Fair General Manager James O'Brien, in addition to the science of seeding and growing the pumpkins, the weather posed a great challenge to growers this year.
O'Brien said it was extremely hot this summer, and wet in the spring. He also said cool summer nights this August would have impacted the pumpkin's growth, and that the heavy rain would have caused some pumpkins to rot from the inside.
The entries at the weigh-off ranged from a vibrant orange to a mossy green hue. Norman Gansert, of Johnston, Rhode Island, received the Howard Dill Award for the Best Looking Pumpkin at the competition, for his 990-pound entry, a nearly symmetrical pumpkin with a robust orange color.
"I try to grow orange," Gansert said. "They look more like pumpkins. They look better on my porch."
Kelsey Bode can be reached at 978-338-2660 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsey_Bode.