Home Page

Aided by a little manpower and watched by a few hundred people, a forklift hauls a pumpkin to the weighing scales during the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Oct. 22 in the Old Town Plaza in Old Colorado City. In the foreground (back to the camera, orange T-shirt, standing just behind the scales) is event emcee Chad New of the Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers.
Westside Pioneer photo

Sawtelle wins 2nd straight year (5th time overall) in OCC Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off

In a sling held aloft by the forklift (not shown), Marc Sawtelle's winning pumpkin is lifted to the scales. Emcee Chad New is at left.
Westside Pioneer photo
Colorado Springs grower Marc Sawtelle became the first consecutive winner - and a five-time winner overall - at the 12th annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Oct. 22 in Old Colorado City.
       The competition in the Old Town Plaza parking lot was a key part of what's become a major promotional affair - dubbing all activities as “giant” - by the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group. Included were a free street band, crafts, children's games and creations befitting the OCCA's also-annual Scarecrow Days.
       Based on unofficial estimates, the turnout itself was close to giant. On a warm, sunny day, people strolled curb to curb through the historic shopping district, and close-in parking spaces were at a premium.
       Climaxing the weigh-off while hundreds of people gathered around the scales, Sawtelle's 1,231-pound
Holding the plaque given to the winner, Marc Sawtelle grins next to his squash, which weighed the most of three entries. Later he also won the $300 first prize for heaviest pumpkin.
Westside Pioneer photo
behemoth easily bested second-place Jim Lamke's 829-pounder to take home the $300 first-place award. Sawtelle had set an event record in 2015, with a 1,338-pound entry; this year's growth is second only to that.
       “I'm just trying to keep up with the Denver boys,” he said afterwards, referring to a few northern growers area who regularly produce pumpkins in the 1,200-plus range.
       The state record of 1,685 pounds was set this year by Joe Scherber of Englewood, who'd previously won the OCC event in 2007.
       But Scherber and other known Denver growers didn't make Old Colorado City this year. The OCC event tends to be later in the season, and under the rules a pumpkin can only be entered in a single event.
       The OCC Weigh-off had about 15 entries, plus three in the squash category. Several entries were from people who were trying the hobby for the first time.
       The vegetables were individually trucked in and placed on pallets in the parking lot. A large forklift used a heavy-duty cloth sling - positioned with the aid of a little manpower - to lift each pumpkin onto the scales, then bring it back the same way.
       Giant pumpkins don't happen by accident; they sprout from prize
The Old Colorado Square parking lot, in the 2600 block of West Colorado Avenue, was set up with crafters, businesses and costumed individuals as part of "giant" activities throughout Old Town, tied in with the annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-off Oct. 22.
Westside Pioneer photo
seeds that are often sold on Internet sites. At least 200 square feet is needed for a single plant (1,000 is recommended), with about three months required for full growth.
       Asked if the $300 prize covers the cost of growing a giant pumpkin, Sawtelle laughed, “It doesn't even pay for a month of watering.”
       He also won the contest for biggest squash (at well over 700 pounds), but the award for that is only a plaque.
       Sawtelle, who lives on East Fountain Boulevard, had previously won in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2015. He said he plans to be back next year to defend his crown.
       Started in 2005 by former Old Colorado City business owner and OCCA board member Charlie Cagiao as a way of promoting the historic district , the weigh-off is sanctioned through the national Great Pumpkin Commonwealth organization.
       The Rocky Mountain Giant Vegetable Growers, a local branch of the Commonwealth, ran the event, with Chad New serving as emcee.
       Here's a list of OCC's giant pumpkin winners over the years:
       · 2005 - Doug Minix and Sue Bowers (tie) - 701 pounds
       · 2006 - Marc Sawtelle - 774 pounds
       · 2007 - Joe Scherber - 1,005 pounds
       · 2008 - Sawtelle - 1,111 pounds
       · 2009 - Minix - 1,000 pounds
       · 2010 - Sawtelle - 1,109 pounds
       · 2011 - Barry Todd - 751 pounds
       · 2012 - Todd - 900 pounds
       · 2013 - Gary Grande - 608 pounds
       · 2014 - Jim Grande - 1,006 pounds
       · 2015 - Sawtelle - 1,338 pounds
       · 2016 - Sawtelle - 1,231 pounds

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 10/23/16; Business: Events)

Would you like to respond to this article? The Westside Pioneer welcomes letters at editor@westsidepioneer.com. (Click here for letter-writing criteria.)