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Weighty issues: Giant pumpkins, pumpkin drop’s return promise fall fun for Auburn in October

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Auburn will get its share of pumpkin fun in October, with both a giant pumpkin contest and the thrill of a smashing pumpkin drop on tap. The giant pumpkin contest will be a major focus again at the Auburn Community Festival at Recreation Park on Oct. 16. Dozens of giant pumpkins are expected, with the largest possibly besting last year’s record-setting gourd – a whopping 1,149-pounder grown by Auburn’s Randy Warren. The Great Pumpkin Drop proved such a success last year in its inaugural run that the Old Town Business Association and KAHI AM 950 are bringing it back Oct. 30. Growers are already anticipating the possibility of an even heavier record-setting pumpkin at the Community Festival. The world record is 1,535 pounds, set by a California pumpkin grower in 2007. Granite Bay’s Richard Larson said he plans to bring in an entry that could weigh in at 1,200 pounds if all goes well with the final weeks of gourd growth. “It could even be a little more,” Larson said. Larson, a retired construction superintendent, has been growing pumpkins for prizes for three years. He’s also produced a semi-autobiographical account that moves into the world of the supernatural and ghosts that he’s published in book form called “Life is But a Giant Pumpkin.” Larson said he’ll be selling copies of the book at the weigh-in and hoping to take home the $2,000 prize for the heaviest Placer-grown pumpkin. Warren, last year’s champion pumpkin grower, said some strategic missteps with immature mulch will leave him out of the winner’s circle this year. “I walked away mentally from the patch about a month ago but I’m still going to drag something to the festival,” Warren said. “It’s been a really bad year with pumpkins weighing at about 700 pounds or less.” Last year’s champion pumpkin turned out to also be the focus of an inaugural pumpkin drop in Old Town Auburn that drew an estimated 700 people and resulted in a mad scramble for candy by hundreds of children. Linda Robinson, Old Town Business Association president, said plans are to drop pumpkins some time after 4 p.m. on Oct. 30. Last year’s giant pumpkin plummeted from a crane suspended high above an Old Town street while a 250-pounder filled with candy was dropped first as a warm-up. Robinson said that plans are to tie Old Town Auburn with Downtown Auburn Halloween festivities by marking the route between the two business districts with hundreds of lighted jack-o-lantern luminarias. Signups for that part of the pre-Halloween celebration will start at the Community Festival, which will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 16. The festival also includes a scarecrow making contest, recipe contest and costume parade, with $40,000 in cash prizes.