A Minnesota teacher who loves gardening broke a world record for the heaviest pumpkin ever grown a colossal 2,749lb squash that he named after a basketball legend.
Travis Gienger, who teaches landscape and horticulture at Anoka Technical College, grew the massive pumpkin in his backyard and took it to the 50th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, California. His pumpkin surpassed the previous record, held by Stefano Cutrupi of Italy since 2021, by 47lb.
"This pumpkin is called Michael Jordan because it's the year 23… and he's the greatest basketball player of all time," Gienger told KSTP-TV in Minnesota. He said he noticed that the pumpkin was "basketball round" when it started growing, and he thought it would be "a perfectly round basketball-shaped pumpkin".
Michael Jordan turned out to be a huge, bumpy, orange pumpkin, equivalent to about 2,110 basketballs, or about 275 regular pumpkins.
For comparison, Jordan, the NBA legend weighed 216lb during his NBA career. Gienger spent about $15,000 to feed and care for Michael Jordan as the pumpkin grew bigger and bigger, and he drove it carefully to California from Minnesota last weekend, according to SFGate.
The 43-year-old has been growing pumpkins since he was a teenager, following a family tradition.
In the last four Pumpkin Weigh-Offs, he clinched victory three times. This year, he secured $30,000 in prize money and a ring reminiscent of a Super Bowl championship ring, crafted by a local jeweler. He revealed to SFGate that he intends to utilize the winnings to cultivate an even larger pumpkin in the upcoming year.
"I put in the work so that I can put a smile on people's faces, and it's just so nice coming out here to see everyone in this town," he said.
A significant number of Gienger's rivals at the weigh-off held on Monday hailed from the neighbouring regions of Napa and Sonoma. Minnesota's relatively cold weather can be challenging for pumpkin growing, with temperatures in the spring varying from very hot to very cold.
Nick Kennedy, the second-place winner, expressed to local news outlets that he would participate even in the absence of any prize money.
"It has to be a labour of love," he told ABC 7.
"Watching these things grow – this thing grew 66lb a day at its peak so it's like watching a balloon blow up in front of you, basically."
The three heaviest pumpkins will be on display in Half Moon Bay through next weekend, so visitors can take photos with the enormous gourds.