In Search Of The Great Pumpkin

steve hartman the great pumpkin
Call them "gourds gone wild" - pumpkins of prodigious size, grown by gardeners who freely admit that it's not just a hobby. It's more like an obsession.

And once a year, the growers gather to see whose harvest is the heaviest.

Steve Connolly calls his "The Beast from the East," and like a proud parent, he is happy to share baby pictures.

"About the size of a pea," he said while showing CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman photos. "Yeah, wasn't she cute?"

Those early photos were taken July 1.

"It was growing forty five pounds a day," Connolly said. "It would shape-shift on you, you'd leave in the morning, you'd come back and there'd be a new shoulder sticking out here."

That was just fine with Connolly. His "Beast" is just one of about 50 entries in the annual giant pumpkin weigh-off, where size is all that matters.

Thanks to improved breeding and feeding, over the past few years, giant pumpkins have gotten so gigantic - these days a 1,000-pounder is just a throw-away.

But it's what's inside that counts.

Every one of these pedigreed pumpkins is grown from seeds of former heavyweights.

"We know what seed they're from; the grandmother, the grandfather, the great grandma, the great grandfather," said grower Joe Jutras.

And champion seeds can fetch a pretty penny. Jutras sold some for $250 per seed.

Jutras is the giant pumpkin world record holder - 1,689 lbs. last year.

That's a record Connolly was hoping to break. Of course first he had to get the Beast to the ball - which was no easy task.

Unfortunately, in the end, the Beast was a bit slimmer than she looked - a mere 1,568. That was enough for this year's record - but not good enough for Guinness.

"I'll take it!" he said.

Read more about the pumpkin contest at Couric & Co. blog.
So it's back to the drawing board for Connolly - planning next year's plant.

"Would you go down in pumpkin history if you came up with the first one ton pumpkin?" Hartman asked?

"I would be immortalized. I could die easy," he said.

As for the Beast from the East, she's been battered and squashed - but look for her daughters next season.

  • Steve Hartman

    Steve Hartman has been a CBS News correspondent since 1998, having served as a part-time correspondent for the previous two years.