PALMER — When it comes to giant pumpkins in Alaska, it’s Dale Marshall versus Dale Marshall.
At the Alaska State Fair pumpkin weigh-off on Monday, the giant pumpkin legend from Anchorage broke the state record with a 2,147 pound giant pumpkin. The previous record was set in 2019 with a 2,051 pound monster, grown by — you guessed it— Dale Marshall.
After the win, Marshall said the accomplishment was unexpected and that he was feeling good.
This year’s winning pumpkin was named Cookie Monster, but in shape, it more closely resembled Oscar the Grouch. It beat out four other entries for the title. Marshall said the pumpkin “started out beautiful” but “grew kinda weird.”
Marshall used Atlantic Giant seeds for his pumpkins this year. One was from Spain and another was from New York state. He said Cookie Monster’s mother was over 2,500 pounds.
“The guy I got the seed from is gonna be happy,” he said.
Pumpkins thrive in warm weather, according to Marshall.
Marshall said Cookie Monster might be bigger with “a couple more days of sun” and a late summer “not raining every day for six weeks.”
“If it got a little more daylight, it could have been bigger,” he said. “Yeah, a little more photosynthesis and a little more sunlight (would help).”
But given the pumpkin’s size, he added, “you’d have to say (the rain) didn’t hurt.”
Marshall grew his pumpkins in a 700-square-foot greenhouse, and planted Cookie Monster on June 4, making it 86 days old. Before he harvested it, he said the vine was over 65 feet long. Marshall said he watered the pumpkin with between 25 and 75 gallons of water daily, adjusting for rainfall.
Second place went to Wasilla seven-year-old Taelyn Polis, who grew her pumpkin with her grandmother. Before the weigh-in, Polis guessed her pumpkin weighed 99 pounds. She was delighted to learn that it actually weighed 153 pounds.
She said she helped her grandmother by planting the seeds, watering the pumpkin and checking on it. She was especially worried that moose would eat her pumpkin.
There is some sibling rivalry between Taelyn Polis and her brother Thomas, now 16, who entered a 280-pound pumpkin in the 2019 weigh-off, according to their mom, April.
Theresa and Thad Phillips came in third with a 64.5-pound pumpkin named George. This year was their first time in the pumpkin competition. Thad represented the married couple at the weigh-in, although he said his wife did most of the work. She is a bus driver and couldn’t get out of work due to the ongoing bus driver shortage.
The stands were packed full of State Fair attendees excited to watch a panel of three judges weigh the pumpkins. Caedmon, 13, and Beckham DenBleyker, 13, watched with their grandmother Velma Stuart.
“It would be a great pumpkin to carve for Halloween,” Stuart said of Cookie Monster.
The competition was also visited by the so-called “cabbage fairies,” a troupe of five women who dress up as fairies to add entertainment to the pumpkin weigh-off and cabbage competition, another State Fair staple slated for Friday. The fairies have brought their enthusiasm for produce to the fair for the past 18 years.
Usually the fairies walk through the fair greeting visitors, but this year due to some injuries, they opted to just watch the two competitions from the sidelines, according to manager Mari Jo Parks.
“We’ve been coming every year sprinkling fairy dust,” Parks said.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported weigh-off winner standings. Taelyn Polis won second place, not third place, while Theresa and Thad Phillips won third place, not fourth place.