PALMER — The winning giant pumpkin at the Alaska State Fair looked like a green-tinged Creamsicle crossed with Jabba the Hutt.
The 1,232-pound squash produced by North Pole's Dave Iles wasn't pretty. But, then, the fair's annual giant pumpkin weigh-off isn't about looks.
"Myself, I would be really happy if we find a way to make them more aesthetically appealing," Iles said Tuesday afternoon before the competition got underway in the livestock barn. "But, like they say in the growing world, this isn't a beauty contest."
He named the giant gourd "Reaper's Keeper" in a nod to his own nickname: the Grim Reaper, likely a gardening reference, not a mortal one.
Beset by a cool, rainy summer that made for tough giant pumpkin growing, it fell far short of last year's record 1,496-pound monster from Anchorage's Dale Marshall.
Marshall returned this year with a 1,172-pounder that missed the win by 60 pounds. Then again, all of his entries looked prettier than the slab of squash that gave Iles the $1,000 title prize.
Thomas Whitmire, 10 years old and the only other entrant in the pumpkin weigh-off Tuesday, produced his 32-pounder at his family's home near Palmer. The fifth-grader actually produced one he estimated at five times that size but it cracked.
No go. Not even an entry.
The 14-page rule pamphlet produced by the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth requires the pumpkins be "in sound shape" without holes or cracks leading into the yawning, seed-filled cavity, according to Kathy Liska, the fair's crops superintendent. A panel of judges examined the bottom of each entry before it was weighed.
The pumpkins produced in Alaska pale in comparison to the record winners in warmer climates. A Belgian man grew the current world record holder — a 2,624-pounder.
Apparently our gladiolus flowers are "pretty crummy" too — at least, according to Nola Lotzer, who took in the flower entries near the pumpkin weigh-off during a visit to Alaska's fair from her home in central Wisconsin.
Lotzer said she doesn't know how the pumpkins compare.
"I've never seen a pumpkin weigh-off in Wisconsin," she said.
If you're looking for the great cabbage weigh-off, that happens Friday at 7 p.m.