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A pumpkin weighing more than 600 pounds will be the centerpiece of Saturday’s Night of a Thousand Jacks fall festival downtown.
The event benefits Advocates for Children, a nonprofit agency that supports abused and neglected children in Bartholomew, Decatur and Jennings counties.
The massive gourd was grown by Bloomington resident David Ray and his family. The Rays have been growing giant pumpkins for nearly a decade and have supplied the annual Night of a Thousand Jacks fall festival with their centerpiece pumpkin for the past three years.
“It’s a ridiculous hobby that’s become a family tradition,” Ray said. “It’s something the family looks forward to.”
Past festivals have featured pumpkins ranging from 604 to 956 pounds.
This year’s pumpkin, of the Atlantic giant variety, is 11 feet in circumference and about 4½ feet tall and weighs 600 to 650 pounds, Ray said.
Lots of attention and care are needed to grow oversized pumpkins, he said.
The Ray family spends an average of 30 minutes per day caring for each giant pumpkin. The time of year and weather conditions will determine watering and fertilizing patterns, he said.
During peak growing time, from July though September, giant pumpkins will grow 20 to 30 pounds per day. To prevent skin scalding and premature ripening, they must be kept sheltered from direct sun.
“You can either cover it with a white bedsheet (which reflects the sun’s rays) or build a tent structure around it,” Ray said.
After three months or so, it’s time to harvest. That means bringing in a tractor.
Making the journey to festivals and farmers markets with the pumpkin is half the fun, Ray said.
“People at stoplights will honk and take pictures with their cellphones,” he said.
The gigantic gourd will make a one-hour journey from Bloomington through scenic Brown County to Columbus on the back of a flatbed truck midday Saturday.
Rick Scalf, community outreach coordinator for Advocates for Children, is eagerly awaiting the giant’s arrival.
“It’s definitely a crowning jewel to the jack display,” Scalf said. “How often do you get the chance to see something like this?”
It’s the great pumpkin
Giant pumpkin statistics offered by grower David Ray:
Weight: 600-650 pounds
Circumference: 11 feet
Height: About 4½ feet
Shell: 18 inches thick
Seeds per pumpkin: About 150
Growth: 20 to 30 pounds per day from July to September
From seed to giant: 3 months
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