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Boylston pumpkin smashes the scales.

Byline: Michael Kane

BOYLSTON - Maybe it's not big enough to carry Cinderella to the ball, but when the jack-o-lantern on your front step is taller than some of the trick-or-treaters who rang your doorbell on Halloween, you might think you have a pretty good sized squash on your hands. The real sign should have been the shop tools required to carve it.

Such was the mass of the orange monster bedecking the front steps of the Johnson family's home on Underwood Avenue last week.

This year marked the third time the family patriarch Don Johnson has attempted to grow a giant pumpkin, his wife Lisa wrote in an e-mail. And, weighing in at 585 pounds, it was his largest to date.

"Don needed to use his Skill saw and his filet knife to carve it out," Lisa Johnson wrote, noting a crowbar was also required to pull the top off to see inside.

At the Bolton Fair, which is where it was first weighed, the giant pumpkin captured a blue ribbon for Best of Show, Largest Pumpkin. At the fair's scale it weighed in at 585 pounds.

"What a chore it was to hoist it up in the garage and then back the truck in under it without collapsing the garage roof," Johnson said, making note of the creaking sound the giant gourd-cousin brought forth from the structure once the pumpkin was off the ground.

On Columbus Day weekend, the pumpkin was again loaded into a truck, this time headed for the Frerichs Farm in Warren, R.I., home of the annual Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers weigh off.

On the Rhode Island scale, the pumpkin showed a weight loss of five pounds, Johnson said, weighing 580.5 and placing 24th out of 37 pumpkins over 100 pounds.

"We received a lot of comments on Halloween night from trick-or-treaters of all ages, as it was carved out and lit with two large candles and a work light," Johnson wrote. "One child asked if it was real and how much did it cost to buy one that size. When I told him we grew it in our yard he just said `Wow.'"

"Two ladies out for a walk in the neighborhood also came up just to look at it and marvel at it size, they didn't have any kids with them," Johnson wrote.

While the Johnson's near 600-pound pumpkin took root in a front yard on Underwood Avenue, its true beginnings started north of the border, in Canada.

"The seed was purchased from Howard Dill Enterprises in Canada, where you can order premium seeds and all kinds of information on how to grow large Atlantic pumpkins," Johson wrote. "Don ordered two seeds, one for $15 and one for $13. Only one seed produced the big (pumpkin)."

As a result of his trip to Rhode Island, Don Johnson has also joined the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, a move that should bring more information on growing an even larger pumpkin next year.

"He is shooting for 700 pounds," Lisa Johnson wrote. The family also gave a few seeds to friends so they could try their hands (and power tools) at giant pumpkin growing next year.

As of Monday, the pumpkin still sat on the Johnson's front step. While the family was waiting for it to soften, the pumpkin was being aided in its return to earth by other fans of giant pumpkins.

"After Halloween night, our two golden retrievers watched with interest from the front window as the squirrels had a field day running back and forth stealing from the inside of the pumpkin," Johnson wrote.


CUTLINE: (1) The Johnson family, of Underwood Avenue, Boylston, show off their largest giant pumpkin to date, a 585-pound blue ribbon winner. At their home in Boylston are (from left): Bethanie and Molly, Don (the grower) and Pretty Kitty, and Laura and Jake. (2) It took a skill saw, a crowbar and a filet knife to carve this 585 pound jack-o-lantern for Halloween on Underwood Avenue.

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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 6, 2008
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