It’s not a record but Dale Marshall shows why he’s the undisputed giant of Alaska’s pumpkin patch

Two men push a giant pumpkin on a forklift.
Dale Marshall, right, maneuvers his pumpkin toward the scale, with an assist from Ken Blaylock. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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.

three women and a man spectate the weigh off of a giant pumpkin
Mardie Robb, left, was delighted with Marshall’s winning pumpkin. She’s joined by two of the fair’s pumpkin fairies. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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.

A man in a neon green sweat shirt unloads a giant pumpkin from a pallet
Dale Marshall prepares to offload his pumpkin for the weigh-off. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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.

A man in a neon green sweatshirt waves his arms in celebration.
Dale Marshall shouts in victory for his winning pumpkin at 2,023 pounds. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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.

a man in a hat with a large, pale pumpkin
Keith Malone of Chugiak says he’ll always be second best to Dale Marshall. His pumpkin is a personal best at more than 600 pounds. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)

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.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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