A day that ‘Pumpkin Man of Alaska’ Dale Marshall won’t soon forget
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Dale Marshall may not be a household name to most Alaskans. But for folks who follow giant vegetables, Marshall is a hero of sorts.
Marshall has been extremely successful at growing giant pumpkins, including one that broke the state record in 2019 weighing 2,051 pounds. On Monday, Marshall took home his second consecutive Alaska Midnight Sun Great Pumpkin Weigh-Offf at the Alaska State Fair and broke his own state record.
Marshall is a plumber by trade who said his interest in gardening as a hobby morphed into a desire to grow giant vegetables. He acted on it, entering his first pumpkin at the fair 14 years ago.
“The first year was 50 pounds or something like that, and then the next year we bumped up to 350 and that was amazing,” Marshall said. “I’d never seen a pumpkin that big that I’ve actually grown.”
On the day of the contest, Marshall was preparing to pluck two large pumpkins from his “patch,” a series of greenhouses he’s built at his home in the Sand Lake neighborhood of Anchorage. Marshall explained that the greenhouses have been modified at least three times to hold ever-expanding pumpkins.
“The tape says it weighs about 1960 (pounds), but it feels a lot thicker,” Marshall said. “Especially up here, and they tend to go heavy.”
Getting the pumpkin out of the greenhouse is quite the feat in and of itself. First, Marshall must disassemble the greenhouse roof. Next, he secures the pumpkin with a series of heavy straps. A giant crane hoists the pumpkin up through the top of the greenhouse, dangling it in the air before placing the massive gourd gently on the flatbed truck that Marshall will drive to the fair.
“You’re never not nervous until that’s on that, the trailer,” Marshall said.
Marshall does have a reason to be nervous. In 2015, the straps holding his pumpkin onto the crane snapped and sent his pumpkin smashing to the ground. But on Monday, the pumpkin-loading process goes smoothly.
Once at the fair, Marshall discovers there are only a few contenders in the pumpkin weigh-off, and that his are by far the biggest.
With the crowd chanting “go heavy,” Marshall’s smaller pumpkin delivers 1,819 pounds on the scales.
Although he’s pleased, it’s the second pumpkin Marshall has his eye on. A preliminary measurement suggests it may weigh in at a little over 1,900 pounds, but Marshal is hopeful it will deliver much more.
When the giant pumpkin is lowered on the scales it weighs a whopping 2,147 pounds, beating his old state record by nearly 100 pounds. Marshall is ecstatic, the win brings him $1,000 in prize monies — but more importantly — bragging rights for another year.
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