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Fall is in the air, and giant pumpkins are in River Prairie park

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2021 giant pumpkin fest

Ben Polzin of Chippewa Falls with his giant pumpkin

ALTOONA (WQOW) - On Saturday morning, giant pumpkins could be found in River Prairie Park during the third annual Ginormous Pumpkin Festival.

"It's just a great way to usher in the fall season for the Chippewa Valley and Altoona," said management analyst for the City of Altoona, Roy Atkinson.

The weigh-off was for giant and field pumpkins, squash, marrows, tomatoes, watermelons, and bushel gourds.

"The thing I love the most about the big pumpkins, they always bring awe and smiles to people's faces," said one pumpkin grower, Shannan Engel. "Every time they see them, they've got to touch them, they don't believe they're real."

Engel said growing giant pumpkins is a hobby that renews every April.

"Pumpkins this big, it's seeds, soil, sight selection, and lots of care."

Engel said growers start by planting their seeds indoors, eventually moving them outside and pollinating in late June or early July.

"When they're growing, they'll actually grow anywhere from 25 to 50 pounds a night," Engel said.

People's eyes were drawn to many impressive crops on Saturday, but by far, the most attention went toward those infamous giant pumpkins. While all of the orange giant fruits were extraordinary, only one could be crowned the winner.

Caleb Jacobus of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, brought a 2,002-pound pumpkin to Altoona's festival this year. He said he began growing the seeds on April 17 and removed the pumpkin from the vine on Sept. 25. Jacobus said he wasn't sure his pumpkin would win when he brought it to Altoona, but he knew it had a good shot at it being one of the best.

"I'm competitive, so I really enjoy doing it," Jacobus said.

Lots of pounds can also mean lots of money! Prize money totaled $13,000 for this year's competition, with $4,000 of it going to the grower of the largest pumpkin.

If you are interested in becoming a giant pumpkin grower yourself, you can click or tap here and send a message to the page.

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