by Jim Boyle
The heaviest pumpkin ever raised in the United States took a pit stop at an Elk River elementary school before making its way to the Anoka Grande Day Parade held last month.
Travis Gienger, who is a horticulture teacher at Anoka Technical College, raised the giant gourd weighing 2,560 pounds.
Shanna Jeffers, a special education paraprofessional at Parker Elementary School, was able to get Gienger to swing by the school with the pumpkin named “Maverick.” Her husband grew up playing hockey with Geinger in Anoka and they were both in horticulture classes together as well.
“They are very close friends,” she said. “I have known Travis since 1997 when I started dating my now husband my sophomore year (at Elk River High School).”
Once the pumpkin went down to Anoka it was carved into an eagle.
Gienger’s message to the kids at Parker Elementary School was what can be accomplished with hard work. His hope was to spark creativity in their minds.
“I think seeing, feeling and taking pictures next to this pumpkin meant a lot to the kids and even the staff here at Parker,” Jeffers said.
Gienger called it his “favorite stop” because of “all the questions the kids had, the smiles that were on their faces and to see the wonder working in their minds.”
Jeffers said the kids’ reactions were priceless. Students in two classrooms also got to watch a livestream of the carving (done by Mike Rudolph) during their Fall Festival Day.
Kids also saw pictures of the carved pumpkin.
Earlier this fall, Gienger drove his gargantuan gourd for 35 hours to see his hard work pay off at the 49th World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco.
“You think driving in a snowstorm is bad? Try driving one of these things,” he said.
Gienger broke a record set in New York where a grower raised a massive pumpkin weighing 2,554 pounds.
Travis grew a giant pumpkin in 2020, too. Jeffers and her husband, Kevin, Travis, and his wife Megan, drove it from Andover to Half Moon Bay to get it weighed for the Safeway Pumpkin Weigh-Off. His “Tiger King” pumpkin, a 2,350 pound beast, won that contest, too.
“That was one of my favorite road trips ever,” Jeffers said.
A grower in Italy holds the world record for the heaviest pumpkin. He grew a 2,702-pound squash in 2021, according to Guinness World Records.
(Editor’s note: Information in this story came from an Associated Press report.)