OTSEGO, Minn – It is certainly not by accident that Chris Qualley grew the state’s largest pumpkin, even though he didn’t expect it to break the state record.
“That was my goal, but I wasn’t sure it could get there," he said.
Last year Chris grew a couple of conventional-sized jack-o-lanterns in his backyard. After that, “I thought it was kind of cool and then the bigger the better,” Qualley said.
He had the idea of growing larger pumpkins, did some research and aimed for a state record.
“I thought he was crazy. I thought he might give up by May or June but here we are,” says Qualley’s wife, Brandi.
The seeds were planted back in April outside his Otsego home, and at the Stillwater Harvest Fest this past weekend the pumpkin weighed in at 1,918.5 pounds, which was larger than the 1,893-pound pumpkin that held the state record for two years.
“It was pretty exciting,” Qualley said.
The Stillwater pumpkin weigh-off is part of a larger effort called the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth, which hosted 100 different weigh offs worldwide. And all champion-level competitors likely work as hard as Qualley to grow the big one.
“In the peak time when I’m growing I usually spend 20 hours in the garden.” Qualley said. “I was up every day at 5:30 watering the pumpkins, then you dry them off and cover them up. You have to be somewhat crazy to do it because there is a lot involved.”
Right now Qualley's great pumpkin is sitting on a snowmobile trailer in his driveway waiting to go on display in St. Paul. In the meantime it’s become quite the neighborhood talker.
“There are about 15 cars a day that just stop and stare," he said. "The reactions are awesome. How can you not look at a giant pumpkin and just smile?”