Trashcan the pumpkin got it got its moment to shine at the 2021 Kansas State Fair.
Weighing in at a Kansas-record-breaking 1,127.2 pounds, this mammoth pumpkin from Calvin Beeson of Clyde, Kan., drew crowds to its corner of the Pride of Kansas Building. Beeson has been growing giant watermelons for several years and says Trashcan — named by his youngest daughter, Hadley — is just his second try at a giant pumpkin.
Seed to success
Beeson, his wife, Paige, and their daughters, Olivia and Hadley, raise watermelons on their farm in Cloud County for the annual Clyde Watermelon Festival, and he has brought the largest watermelon to the Kansas State Fair before. To raise a giant pumpkin takes similar skills.
But first, you need giant pumpkin seeds — which Beeson says are about the size of a silver dollar.
MAIN ATTRACTION: Every year, crowds make their way to the corner of the Pride of Kansas Building on the Kansas State Fairgrounds to see the giant pumpkins. This year, they were treated to a record-breaker grown by Calvin Beeson of Clyde, Kan.
“We find the seeds online,” Beeson says. “There are giant grower auctions. So, we bought the seeds and got them going good inside, and then we got them outside in March.”
The goal is to establish a big plant to sustain the pumpkin during its growth — which, in the case of Trashcan, was as much as 49 pounds on just one day at the peak of its growth spurts, he adds.
Once the vine is good and established, Beeson says the next step is to pluck off every blossom but one. You want all of the water and nutrients to be directed to one pumpkin, he says.
“You want to keep that pumpkin shaded at all times,” Beeson says. This is because the sun will ripen the fruit, and it won’t achieve its potential giant size.
Next is to create air circulation around the pumpkin to keep the gourd itself dry, so that rot doesn’t set in.
“I usually run fans on the blossom end, and I run fans on the stump end 24/7,” he says. “That’s because that’s where all your problems will start, on the blossom end where you pollinated it, and then your stem.”
It also helps that the Beesons have good, sandy soil, which is ideal for pumpkins and watermelons.
He also spends days fighting insects that will attack the plants and suck vital nutrients.
Each day, Beeson takes measurements and consults a growth chart that fellow giant pumpkin growers have developed over the years, so that he can get an idea of its growth without using a scale.
“On the average, it was growing 20 to 30 pounds per day,” Beeson says. It took about 72 to 74 days to grow to the size it would reach, but another 10 to 15 days to finish it.
Time for competition
As you can imagine, it’s a delicate procedure to move the giant from the pumpkin patch in Clyde to its final destination, the Pride of Kansas Building at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. But the world of competitive pumpkin growers has developed a pumpkin sling — and a technique to get it from the patch to a pallet for easier transport, using a skid steer and a truck.
The group of giant pumpkin growers and giant watermelon growers is full of friendly competition in Kansas, Beeson says. There’s some good-natured teasing about who’s going to walk away with the big prize each year, but they’re also the first to congratulate each other on a new record. Beeson broke the record held by Donovan Mader of Garden City since 2015.
Trashcan won’t wind up on the dinner table — giant pumpkins typically will have rinds a foot thick and aren’t really good eating, Beeson says. Its seeds, though, will be retained, and Beeson and his family will try again next year.