By Adam Pack
Giant pumpkin growing is back, and it’s bigger than ever here in the Greenbrier Valley. Last year, Chris Rodebaugh and his father were some of the only people locally who were involved in the competition, but now their giant pumpkins have inspired others to follow in their footsteps.
Ronceverte resident Sarah Baker was drawn to these giant pumpkins due to, “just loving pumpkins and fall and everything else that goes with it in general.” She had seen pictures of giant pumpkins before and had wondered where they came from, but only recently did she find out after seeing the Rodebaugh’s plants at the West Virginia State Fair.
“I saw the pumpkins up close and personal for the first time and went up to Albert (Rodebaugh) and started asking him about them. Eventually I asked him how does someone get started in growing giant pumpkins. That’s when Albert introduced me to Chris.” In the spirit of fair play and sportsmanship, Chris didn’t balk at the opportunity to cultivate giant pumpkin growing. Instead of keeping the tricks of the trade to himself, Chris gave her a seed from his own collection, of a lineage boasting some of his largest plants.
Baker says her start into the world of giant pumpkin growing has been helped by the fact that “the giant pumpkin growing community is well organized and so supportive.” Her start has also been fruitful. “As of now we actually have two giant pumpkins growing.” Of the two, there’s a clear “blue ribbon” pumpkin, going by the name of Basil. Basil’s sister, and Baker’s daughter’s personal pumpkin, Petal, is not quite as large, but will also get her chance to compete.
Exact measurements are something of a competitive secret as of yet, as no official weigh-offs have been conducted, but Basil weighs in at “around 1,000 pounds,” according to Baker. The time and place of said weigh-offs is not yet determined, as the Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth likes to allow growers ample time to grow and tend to their plants. However, “with the first frost fast approaching, I can’t say when or where I think it will be, but it should be soon.”
Baker also found the experience of growing the giant pumpkins to be interesting.“ A total family affair; my family was involved in it all summer and we all had to learn so much about planting, horticulture, pollination, and all kinds of the science that goes into it. It’s a lot of hard work but my kids and I loved it and we had so much fun.”