Dozens of men and women gathered in Elk Grove Saturday to prepare for an upcoming competition that will pit their biggest and heaviest creations against each other: a giant pumpkin weigh-off.
The Cosumnes Community Services District held a Giant Pumpkin Growers' Forum Saturday, a seed's throw away from the site at Elk Grove Regional Park where the 1,000-plus-pound fruits will be judged against each other this fall.
The growers in attendance swapped and bid on seeds with prized lineages, and listened to a panel of experts give tips. They heard growers' opinions on everything from genetics to soil pH and micro-organisms, but in the end didn't gain any guaranteed prize-winning secrets.
"If you've done it you know there's really no secret," Pugh said, urging those in the crowd to find a mentor. "I just think grower collaboration is the answer to moving to the next level."
And it shouldn't be hard to find someone willing to help. Pugh, who led five other growers in a Family Feud gameshow-style question-and-answer session Saturday, said the community of giant pumpkin-growers is friendly and helpful.
"The more friendly people are more successful," he said.
Pete Glasier, a Napa resident and 2007 Cosumnes Community Services District Giant Pumpkin Festival champion, spent time giving tips to and helping a young boy pick seeds from the table where hundreds of choices were sprawled and waiting to be swapped.
"We share everything," Glasier said of the pumpkin-growing community.
Sue Hartman, a grower from Lafayette, said she comes even though her 325-pound pumpkin places her in the "small potatoes" category.
"I've been coming for several years and always learn something new about how to grow bigger giant pumpkins," she said.
The Cosumnes Community Services District's Giant Pumpkin Festival is held each October at Elk Grove Regional Park. Click here for our coverage of last year's event.