This year’s 4-H Biggest Pumpkin and Watermelon Contest entries were a little on the lighter side but still managed to survive a growing season beset with rain, flooding and even drought.
Twelve-year-old Mark “Buster” Passmore from Greene County delivered the winning pumpkin, weighing in at 219 pounds. Isaac Staton, 9, from Logan County won first place in the watermelon contest with a 47.5-pound melon. Staton also won second place in the pumpkin contest with a 66-pound pumpkin.
This was Passmore’s third win at the state level. In 2019, he delivered a 491-pound pumpkin, and last year he won with a 334-pound pumpkin.
4-H members contended with rain and flooding that delayed their planting, which cut short the growing time for their pumpkins and watermelons. Others lost plants to mildew and blossom rot. Those, whose plants survived the tough summer, hauled their choice picks to the Arkansas State Fair on Oct. 16 for the official weigh-in.
For the contest, participants grew the same varieties: Carolina Cross watermelons and Atlantic Giant pumpkins. Pumpkins had to be planted between May 14 and Oct. 16 Watermelons were planted May 14-Oct. 16. Passmore said he was more than two weeks late planting his pumpkin due to weather.
“I didn’t think I was going to have a pumpkin this year,” he said.
Pumpkins thrive in consistent growing conditions, and this year’s growing season was anything but consistent.
“If you get a little rot in the stem or on the belly, the pumpkin is done unless you have a second one on the vine,” Greene County extension agent Dave Freeze said. “Most growers, though, pulled smaller fruits off the vine to allow their choice pick to get all the nutrients.”
Several young growers also picked their pumpkins and watermelons early when the vines began dying, resulting in smaller melons.
“They certainly had a lot of challenges this year, but that is part of learning about horticulture,” said Priscella Thomas-Scott, 4-H events coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “We’re proud of all of them who persisted and learned.”
1st place — Buster Passmore, Greene County, 219 pounds
2nd place — Isaac Staton, Logan County, 66.25 pounds
1st place – Isaac Staton, Logan County, 47.5 pounds.
2nd place — Ivy Staton, Logan County, 46.25 pounds
3rd place — Carissa Webster, Logan County, 43 pounds
4th place — Carlee Nguyen, Cross County, 12.5 pounds
5th place — Madison Wilson, Cross County, 11.75 pounds
6th place — Abby Smith, Cross County, 5.75 pounds
4-H is the premier youth development program of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service. Programs are offered in every county in Arkansas. To learn more about 4-H, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.