Pumpkin Patches

Local Gourd Growers Earn Honors At Annual Contest

Andy Wolf of Little Valley pictured with his second-place pumpkin, which came in at 1,911.5 pounds. Photos courtesy of the Great Pumpkin Farm

Two area pumpkin growers were big winners at this year’s World Pumpkin Weigh-off.

Andy Wolf of Little Valley took second place at Sunday’s contest, held annually at the Great Pumpkin Farm in Clarence. Wolf’s pumpkin clocked in at 1,911.5 pounds, which netted him $1,500 plus a $1,000 bonus for having a gourd that weighed more than 1,900 pounds.

Wolf won the event two years ago. He said the secret to growing a great pumpkin is making sure the soil is just right.

“There’s a lot of work you have to put in, but if the soil is off you’re going to lose out,” he said.

Wolf got into growing pumpkins about 20 years ago as a way to kill time and because he always enjoyed working in his garden. He said the sport of growing the biggest gourd has become like an addiction, noting that he has seen his creations grow by as much as 40 pounds a day.

Jamestown resident Tim Bailey pictured Sunday with his 1,604-pound pumpkin at the World Pumpkin Weigh-off in Clarence. Bailey has been growing pumpkins for more than two decades.

Tim Bailey of Jamestown placed third in Sunday’s contest. His pumpkin came in at 1,604 pounds, which helped him earn $1,000.

First place went to Karl Haist of Clarence Center, whose record-setting pumpkin weighed 2,269 pounds.

The massive gourd earned Haist the $2,500 first-place prize plus a $1,000 bonus for having a pumpkin weighing more than 2,000 pounds.

Haist also took first place last year, with his entry weighing 2,027 pounds.

Fourth place this year went to Jeff Podraza of West Seneca.

Bailey, who took fifth place in the same contest a year ago, told The Post-Journal last year he has been growing pumpkins for more than two decades.

“I love God’s creation, and to watch it working up close while gardening is great,” he said. “I never get tired of watching how fast the pumpkins grow. They can put on over 50 pounds in a day. … I also enjoy the challenge of the competition. Most giant pumpkin growers are highly competitive but they will help their fellow growers without thinking twice. I love the weigh-offs. They are like a family reunion at the end of the growing season.”

Meanwhile, Wolf said he expects to see the weight of pumpkins increase even further in the future.

“Never say never,” he said. “We’re probably coming to 3,000 pounds in the next couple of years. It’s going to get to that point. I haven’t hit 2,000 pounds yet, but hopefully next year. The bar keeps getting raised each year, and it’s getting tougher and tougher.”

The Great Pumpkin Farm saw its first 1,000-pound pumpkin (1,061 pounds) in 1996. The entry made it into the Guinness Book of World Records at the time.