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Little tricks'turn pumpkin into a gian

Little-tricks-turn-pumpkin-into-a-gian

Paul Fleitz, whose son, Gary, raised a 620-pound pumpkin, displays the behemoth at the Fleitz farm, 7133 Seaman Rd., in Oregon. Weighing it was a challenge. Four men loaded the pumpkin onto a pallet that went into a truck that had been weighed at a grain elevator. A return trip to the elevator with the seasonal cargo helped the Fleitz family determine how much the pumpkin weighed.

The Blade/Amy E. Voigt
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A lot of strategy went into raising a 620-pound pumpkin at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm, its biggest ever.

First, there was the ordering of "Atlantic Giant" seeds costing $15 each over the Internet. The Canadian supplier promised the seeds came from a pumpkin that had weighed well over 1,000 pounds.

Then pumpkin blossoms were pollinated by hand at the Oregon farm. Only the most promising pumpkin was allowed to grow. And the growing fruit was shaded with a burlap bag strung from four posts so the sun wouldn't harden - and hinder - it.

"There's a lot of little tricks," said owner Paul Fleitz, whose son, Gary Fleitz, raised the behemoth pumpkin.

"We had the water just running on the pumpkin constantly, just a trickle on the main vine."

And the result, when spotted last week by frequent Fleitz Pumpkin Farm customer Jeannette Smith of Florida, prompted exclamations - and obvious surprise.

"Really, I was," she said while in the area visiting family. "But then, you can always expect something outstanding."

The giant pumpkin is on display at Fleitz Pumpkin Farm, which sells pumpkins and squash of various shapes, sizes, and colors. Crafts, popcorn, apples, and other fall favorites also are sold.

The Oregon farm, which also has corn and straw mazes, also offers doughnuts and hay rides on weekends.

Raising the giant pumpkin was an outgrowth of a competition Mr. Fleitz's four children started 15 years ago.

The largest contender among them was entered into the Ohio State Fair. Gary Fleitz won the fair's top prize in the mid-1990s with a pumpkin that weighed 264 pounds.

Now Mr. Fleitz's son and two sons-in-law keep the tradition going, Mr. Fleitz said.

"This thing just kept growing and growing," Mr. Fleitz said. "We thought it would be 600 pounds for sure."

Based on its increasing circumference, the pumpkin was gaining 30 pounds a day.

Weighing it was another challenge.

Four men loaded the pumpkin onto a pallet that went into a truck that already had been weighed at a grain elevator. A return trip to the elevator with the seasonal cargo helped the Fleitz family determine how much the pumpkin weighed.

Eventually, they will carve the pumpkin, although it will take a tree pruning saw to get through the 8-inch thick shell, Mr. Fleitz said.

Nivelle Kelley, who is not quite 3, also was wowed by the giant pumpkin last week. Then again, the Oregon toddler was pleased with goats and other items on display, too.

"She likes [pumpkins] more her size," her grandfather, Ken Fashbaugh of Toledo, said with a laugh.

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