photo by: Kailey Carpino
This year’s King Pumpkin received some not-very-royal treatment prior to arriving at the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival on Wednesday.
The reigning champion weighed in at 1,950 pounds and was grown by Bill Neptune of New Concord, Ohio. This is Neptune’s fourth time winning the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off after back-to-back victories in 2009 and 2010 and winning again in 2019.
But Neptune said he “had a scare” earlier Wednesday after preparing the pumpkin to be transported. He said that he loaded the pumpkin onto a truck and left the truck out in the pasture. When he returned, he was surprised to see that a resident bovine had attempted to turn it into a snack.
“There was a cow eating the pumpkin. You can see where it left teeth marks,” Neptune said.
Downtown Barnesville was filled with trucks, trailers, cranes and giant pumpkins Wednesday night for the unofficial start of the 59th annual Pumpkin Festival. Neptune made a grand entrance by arriving less than 10 minutes before the 9 p.m. deadline.
Neptune said he started growing the King Pumpkin on April 10 and has been spending about 40 hours a week tending to the plant.
“It’s a constant battle. It takes a lot of work and commitment,” he said.
Neptune said he enjoys coming to the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival each year.
“This is like our home show. We enjoy coming here and bringing a nice pumpkin for everyone,” he said.
The second place winners were Dave and Carol Stelts of Enon Valley, Pennsylvania, with an 1,853-pound pumpkin, and the third place winners were Lee and Derrick Zappa of Mercer, Pennsylvania, at 1,696 pounds.
The owner of the King Pumpkin will be awarded $2 per pound as prize money and a plaque that reads “Heaviest Overall.” With his gourd weighing in at 1,950 pounds, Neptune will receive a $3,900 prize.
All pumpkins entered in the contest, including the winners, will remain on display throughout the festival, until 4 p.m. Sunday.
Ohio Valley Scale in Wheeling donated the large scales used for the event, and Village Hardware and Rental and Braido Memorials provided the equipment needed for handling the giant pumpkins. Louisiana Grill and Doan Ford are major sponsors for the event.
JB Digital Media partnered with Belmont County Tourism to livestream the weigh-off. The stream is viewable on the Belmont County Tourism Facebook page.
The King Pumpkin will be auctioned off at 5 p.m. Saturday during the festival.
Last year’s King Pumpkin was grown by Erik Gunstrom of Harrison City, Pennsylvania, and was the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival’s largest pumpkin ever. It set a Pennsylvania state record at 2,405 pounds. The pumpkin sold for $13,000 to Jay Goodman of Harvey Goodman Realtors, Stacy Austin of Chick-fil-A, Kirke Porterfield of Kirke’s Ice Cream and Robert Thomas of Thomas Auto Centers at the festival’s auction.
After the festival ends, the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival Committee will be selling some of the seeds from the King Pumpkin, and the funds will support the cash prizes for next year’s weigh-off.
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