Cultivating greatness

1,061-pound pumpkin breaks festival record
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
-A +A
The pumpkin-growing Warren family has returned the Auburn Community Festival record for heftiest gourd to Placer County. The crown for heaviest pumpkin — and a county record, as well — went last year to Portola Valley’s Eric Carlson. The out-of-county grower had made the festival’s portable scales groan as it sunk its 1,002.5-pound girth down for a championship. But 7-year-old Audrey Warren, all 44 pounds of her, stepped into the winner’s circle on Saturday after delivering an Auburn-grown, 1,061-pound monstrosity. Warren, a pint-size Skyridge Elementary School student, beat a mostly adult field of 19 growers to pick up $2,000 in prize money. John Hunt’s 888-pounder finished a distant second. Warren is the daughter of perennial competitor Randy Warren, who has held the record for heaviest Placer County pumpkin twice in the past 12 years of competition. Both those times, he was co-recipient of the honors and prize money with his son, Archie. Audrey placed fourth last year and started the road to the championship on June 1 when she planted seeds that would sprout into a prizewinning gourd, with the help of soil additives like fish and goat manure. Audrey said she knew her pumpkin was probably the winner when it was left for last at the weigh-in. “It was really exciting,” Audrey said. It was also exciting for the crowd, to see both the event’s heaviest pumpkin ever and a new county record. “I’m extremely pleased to see someone from Auburn shatter the heaviest pumpkin record,” said Deric Rothe, event committee chairman. The Community Festival drew thousands throughout the late morning and early afternoon to the Auburn park. As well as giant pumpkins, there were dozens of handmade scarecrow exhibits to walk through, music from Sacramento’s Clean Slate and local favorites DoubleShots, a Halloween costume contest, harvest recipe competition and rows of informational and vendor booths. While Trish Schreiber earned the nod from judges and $1,000 for best scarecrow, the people’s choice award went for the second year in a row to Auburn’s Dustin Rhoades. The 18-year-old Sierra College freshman placed second overall with an entry that featured a sheet metal scarecrow failing to hold off a raid by rampaging crows. Rhoades said the “cowboy” is actually a Placer High “Hillman” sculpture he did for a senior project that should soon be displayed at the Auburn school. Adding to the attraction of the Rhoades’ scarecrow display, people could turn a steering wheel and the crows he sculpted would move as they pecked at the ground. “I like working with metal and wanted to choose something I enjoy doing,” Rhoades said. Rhoades earned $1,800 in prize money. Barbara Jicha, scarecrow competition organizer, said that not only were there more entrants than ever before but the quality of the entries was at an all-time high. Thirty-two scarecrows were displayed this year. The event’s harvest recipe contest was also a winner, Event co-chair Peggy Seitzinger said the contest drew more entries than past years, especially in the youth category. A deep-dish plum pie was deemed the overall favorite by a team of judges representing local law enforcement. Roseville’s Jenn Taylor used a combination of Placer-grown plums and a crumbled topping featuring walnuts to woo judges. “They commented that it was sweet but also tart,” Seitzinger said. “It was a standout because it was different and it used Placer-grown plums.” Taylor won an etched silver platter from Roper’s Jewelers. Other winners received cash and a Mountain Mandarin Festival gift basket. The costume contest also drew a crowd, with fairy princesses and pirates popular choices this year. Auburn’s Amy Powell won in the best original costume for an adult division with a fishing costume and a pole that caught her 2-year-old son, Teagan, who was dressed as a fish. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at or comment at -------- Giant Pumpkin contest winners Open Audrey Warren – 1,061 pounds John Hunt – 888 pounds Richard Trentz – 784 pounds Children Aurora Hanrihan – 744 pounds Christina and Beth Goodrich – 482 pounds Michael Shimek-Berryessa – 472 pounds Scarecrow Contest winners Open Trish Schreiber, “Mr. Acorn” Dustin Rhoades, “Crow Grower” Lindsay Barr and Melinda Fuller, “Dancing with the Steers” Kids Mason Sage, “Something Out of Nothing” Bryan Wibberley, “U.S. Coast Guard” Autumn Ceasar Walker, “Rocky the Geisha” Youth Group Placer Hills Discovery Club, “The Magical World of Tim Burton” -and- Mrs. Hyatt’s Kindergarten Class, “Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” Harvest Recipe contest winners Overall — Jenn Taylor, Roseville, deep dish plum pie Savory — Susan Satterloo, pumpkin and bean soup Sweet — Judy Barth, pumpkin praline tort Junior division — Jasmine French, Auburn, apple bundles