A new pumpkin-g has been crowned in California, USA, with a gargantuan gourd tipping the scales at 2,749 lb (1,246.9 kg), on 9 October, to claim the title of all-time heaviest pumpkin.

This is about 180 times the size of the typical pumpkin you’ll buy at the supermarket to carve your traditional jack o’lantern this Halloween season. 

To put it another way, it’s about enough pumpkin to make more than 1,600 pies! 

A couple of weeks before being harvested Travis with the pumpkin while it was still growing in Minnesota

The monster – which was said to measure more than 21 ft (6.4 m) in circumference – was presented this week by veteran pumpkin grower Travis Gienger (USA) of Anoka, Minnesota, at the 50th edition of the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, California, USA. The record has since been confirmed to GWR by global body the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth. 

30 years of growing came down to one second... When the number jumped to 2,749, I was ecstatic! - Travis Gienger, grower of the world's heaviest pumpkin

He planted the seed (an Atlantic Giant 2365 Wolf) back in April and would nurture it for 184 days before it was harvested. During that time, Gienger had to protect his record-breaker-to-be from "a lot of storms and even golf-ball-sized hail"!

Being hoisted out of the truck to get it on to the stage for weighing

It was well worth the 35-hour roadtrip from Gienger’s hometown to the west coast as not only does he claim a reward of more than $24,700 (£20,240) - that's around $9 (£7) per pound - for taking first place, but for setting a world record, the total jackpot was raised to $30,000 (£24,580). 

Transporting such precious cargo does not come without its risks, though, as Travis revealed: "It was a very crazy journey, over hills, mountains, with loads of traffic. At any point, it could have resulted in a crack which would have meant it was disqualified."

As it is the year 2023, Gienger named the gigantic gourd "Michael Jordan" in homage to the iconic basketball player's shirt number. Also, he told media, it "started out basketball round, and I said this is going to be a perfectly round basketball-shaped pumpkin”. 

Travis Gienger celebrating when the result comes in

Travis on stage with his two-year-old daughter Lily

As it transpired, it ended up far from spherical. Deformity is a common trait in the world of supersized squashes but allowed within the rules of competition. What must be avoided for a pumpkin to qualify are any signs of rot, holes or cracks that pass through to the inner cavity. 

The former heaviest pumpkin grown by Stefano Cutrupi of Tuscany, Italy, in 2021

“Michael Jordan” surpassed the previous heaviest pumpkin of 1,226 kg (2,702 lb 13.9 oz), grown by Stefano Cutrupi (Italy), which has stood since 2021. That was the first-ever giant pumpkin in competition to exceed the 2,700-lb mark, but now Gienger has decisively smashed that once-fabled milestone. 

Horticulture teacher Gienger, who has been growing giant pumpkins for three decades, is no stranger to the record books. Although never previously claiming the title for the heaviest pumpkin until now, he has grown several giants which have gone on to be converted into record-setting jack o'lanterns in the past. 

Travis Gienger and Mike Rudolph with their record-breaking jack o'lantern Maverick in 2022

Gienger and Rudolph's previous superlative jack o' lantern Tiger King in 2020

Most recently in 2022, his 2,560-lb (1,161.2-kg) gourd – itself a US record – was transformed into an eagle-themed jack o'lantern by pro carver Mike Rudolph (USA). It was dubbed "Maverick" (after the character played by Tom Cruise in the Top Gun movies). 

It (for now) holds the record circumference for a jack o’lantern of 242 in (20 ft 2 in; 614.7 cm) from stem to blossom. 

Udo Karkos carving the current heaviest jack o'lantern in November 2021

The heaviest jack o’lantern, meanwhile, is currently held by the former heaviest pumpkin, cultivated by Cutrupi. Two months after the squash was declared the world heavyweight in Italy, it was transported to the Ludwigsburg Pumpkin Festival in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, where it was given a facelift by German carver Udo Karkos on 6 November 2021. 

The dream team of Gienger and Rudolph were also behind the “Tiger King” pumpkin character in 2020, a roaring tiger inspired by that year’s runaway success Netflix documentary. The pre-carved 2,350-lb (1,065.9-kg) giant, once again grown by Gienger was 233 in (591.8 cm) around from stem to blossom.

It was confirmed as both the heaviest jack o’lantern (1,065.9 kg; 2,350 lb) and the largest jack o’lantern by circumference on 31 October 2020.

All of which begs one question: is “Michael Jordan” also in line to be transformed into a jack o’lantern? You better believe it. "Yes, it will be the largest carving ever done," Travis told us. "It will take a team of people multiple days!"

So, will he be hanging up his gardening gloves now that he's finally bagged that long-sought title to grow the world's heaviest pumpkin? "I would like to try it again," he said. "I lost one this season and I feel could have made a great run at 3,000 lb!"

(Record) smashing pumpkins: a history 

  • 9 October 2023: 1,246.9 kg (2,749 lb), grown by Travis Gienger (USA) 
  • 26 September 2021: 1,226 kg (2,702 lb 14 oz), grown by Stefano Cutrupi (Italy) 
  • 9 October 2016: 1,190.49 kg (2,624 lb 9 oz), grown by Mathias Willemijns (Belgium) 
  • 12 October 2014: 1,054 kg (2,323 lb), grown by Beni Meier (Switzerland) 
  • 12 October 2013: 921.7 kg (2,032 lb), grown by Tim Mathison (USA) 
  • 28 September 2012: 911.27 kg (2,009 lb), grown by Ron Wallace (USA) 
  • 15 October 2011: 824.86 kg (1,818 lb 5 oz), grown by Jim and Kelsey Bryson (both Canada) 
  • 9 October 2010: 821.23 kg (1,810 lb 8 oz), grown by Chris Stevens (USA)

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