This was a terrible year for growing pumpkins but the acknowledged master of Alaska pumpkin-growing proved, once again, that he’s a giant in his field.
Dale Marshall of Anchorage, holder of the state record for giant pumpkins, rolled up at the Alaska State Fair pumpkin weigh-in with two colossal gourds on a flatbed.
At the loading zone of the barn exhibiting crops and livestock, fair officials and volunteers went ga-ga.
“Here comes Dale!” someone shouted.
Mardie Robb, who has grown some giant vegetables herself, says Marshall is a pumpkin pioneer in a cold climate that’s more suitable for cabbage.
“The world watches what Dale does with his pumpkin weights, because it never should be done this way here,” she said.
She broke off mid-sentence when she saw what Marshall had.
“I’m sorry, but that’s AMAZING,” she said.
Tension mounted as the pumpkins were gently transferred by forklift.
As it turns out, the tines on the forklift were too short and the pumpkin listed on its platform. A gasp emerged from the witnesses. Everyone knew that damage would be catastrophic. Any pumpkin with a crack or hole would be disqualified.
Marshall kept his cool and improvised a solution, using lumber.
Last year, his record-breaking pumpkin weighed 2,147 pounds. He said he knew neither of his 2023 contenders would equal that.
“Uh, no,” he said. “No. Seventeen to nineteen (hundred pounds) I’m hoping. Right in there.”
The scale showed one of Marshall’s pumpkins was in that range: 1,875 pounds. It would be relegated to mere “exhibition” status, because the other, the one that would represent Marshall’s backyard gourd-growing operation for 2023, was even heavier.
“2,023.5 pounds,” the emcee announced over the loudspeaker.
The crowd went wild. Marshall, who’d been subdued all afternoon, raised both arms in victory.
The silver-medal contestant, Keith Malone, grew a 600-pounder. It was a personal best, but Malone says 2nd place is as good as it gets for him.
“I trust Dale to be here with a big one every year,” Malone said.
Marshall said after the fair, his winning pumpkin will be back in his yard in Sand Lake for kids to play on. Then he’ll collect the seeds and leave the pumpkin remains to the moose.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story had an incorrect spelling of Mardie Robb’s first name.