You might think that all that goes on during the local giant pumpkin contest is the quest to determine the largest pumpkin, but that would be wrong.
The Sid Brewer Classic, held for four years right before the opening of the Eastern Mexico State Fair by the Chaves County Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, is mostly a chance for local growers and youth to gather for a night of fun.
Yes, this year’s competition Saturday night at the fairgrounds did set a state record, with the largest pumpkin, “Itsa” grown by Bill Brewer, weighing in at 544 pounds, beating the officially certified state record of 440 pounds set by Cody Burson in 2017.
But the evening also had a lot of side competitions occurring: pumpkin-seed spitting contests, 50-50 contests in which those coming the closest to guessing the weight of the largest pumpkin and the total weight of all 36 entries won 50 percent of whatever was paid into the pot, and awards for a slew of pumpkin-growing categories, including Champion Trash Talker.
That award went to Terry Johnson, who shared his wild tale for why he couldn’t bring his enormous pumpkin to the contest. Seems it was so wide that he required a police escort to haul it to the fairgrounds, but police canceled at the last minute because of an emergency. Immediately after the police officers told him that they couldn’t provide the wide-load escort, a pack of wild animals running through his fields had destroyed the would-be entry that otherwise surely would have won the prize.
While mostly about the fun, the county group, which was formed about four years ago with 40 charter members and now has 61 members, also has some serious competitors and seeks to encourage appreciation for farming and gardening, especially among youth.
“We don’t care what size of pumpkin you bring,” association leader Benny Wooton told the group. “You are competing against yourself. You are competing against your neighbor.”
The pumpkins entered included a few that were marble-sized, too small to register a weight on the scale, according to weighmaster Candy Spence Ezzell, also a local rancher and a New Mexico State House of Representatives member. Then there were the record-setter and about seven that weighed more than 200 pounds, including a 533-pound entry from Benny Wooton. Those required fork-lifts to unload them from trucks and onto pallets.
Local artist Fred Walters, who, along with his wife, Helen, said growing things is horticultural therapy, joined the pumpkin association this year and brought in “Roswellian Pumpkin,” which weighed in at 14 pounds.
“It comes from my Victory Garden,” he said, “and I call it a Victory Garden because it is a victory that anything grows there.”
Bill Brewer, in addition to taking home the “King” crown for largest pumpkin, also was named Most Improved Grower (with a pumpkin this year that was 439 pounds larger than his 2017 entry), and his title-holding pumpkin also picked up the Ugliest Pumpkin Award because it had cracked down one side. Cindy Wooton repeated her winning efforts for the third time, once again picking up the “Queen” title for the woman with the largest pumpkin. Her entry, “Volunteer,” weighed 275 pounds.
Other winners for the night were Trent Moss, Calvin Munson and Trenton Johnson, youth winners of the seed-spitting contest, with Johnson named overall Champion Seed Spitter for his 31-foot, 9-inch effort; Bobbi Chesser, ladies’ seed-spitting champion; and Travis Gray, men’s champion.
The Smallest Pumpkin Award went to Grady Moss for “Jupiter,” which had a circumference of 1.5 inches and weighed too little to register on the scale. The TAWNY Award (There’s Always Next Year) went to James Duffey because his pumpkin this year weighed 123 pounds less than his 2017 entry. The Prettiest Pumpkin went to the Nelson girls for their 1-pounder “The Pretty One.”
Braxton Wooton was the youth winner for the closest guess for the largest pumpkin, estimating 540 pounds, while the adult winner for that category was Toni Wooton, who put the weight at 537 pounds. Carter Munson was the youth winner for coming the closest to guessing total weight for all entries. He picked 4,500, when it was actually 4,552. The adult winner went to the team of Mila and Quenton Franzoy, who guessed 4,570.