Giant pumpkin a winner for Georgetown’s Givens

With the pumpkin strapped in, Mark Clausen begins to lift it from the garden with his Bobcat. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

GEORGETOWN — First and foremost, Ed Givens is no longer “Second-place Ed.”

Mr. Givens’ green thumb and passion for growing gigantic pumpkins finally paid off in victory.

Saturday, his monster orange pumpkin named “Cindy” earned first place at a regional pumpkin weigh-off held at Grims Orchard and Family Farm in Brenigsville, Pennsylvania, sandwiched between Allentown and Kutztown.

Mr. Givens’ entry, named for his wife Cindy and grown at their Gravel Hill Road residence south of Georgetown, tipped the scales at 1,336 pounds.

“No longer ‘Second-place Ed.’ First place – finally,” said Mr. Givens, who set the Delaware state record for heaviest pumpkin – 1,436 pounds – several years ago.

“’Cindy’ was the last pumpkin to be weighed at Saturday’s event, held in conjunction with the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth.

There was unexpected drama when the scales malfunctioned. “It would not register over 1,000 pounds. We had to wait over an hour for a tech person to come,” Mr. Givens said. “After all the drama the scales read 1,336 pounds. (This) pumpkin was larger than the 1,436; not so sure on the accuracy of the scales.”

Nonetheless, Mr. Givens, 62, finished first, ending a string of close-but-no-cigar weigh-off finishes. He had finished runner-up in competitions in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and one year even took a giant pumpkin to a competition in Tennessee where he placed, but not first.

Until Saturday, Mr. Givens’ only taste of pumpkin-growing victory came more than 50 years ago when he and his grandfather grew a pumpkin next to the family Gravel Hill Road farmhouse and entered it in a local contest. It took first place, weighing in at 40 pounds.

The Sept. 29 weighoff event featured entries from several states throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

The night before, Mr. and Ms. Givens hosted a gala pumpkin harvest celebration.

There was jubilant celebration — and immense relief — when neighbor Mark Clausen at the controls of his Bobcat gingerly lifted “Cindy” from her patch perch onto a pallet.

During its five-month growth spurt, “Cindy” developed a series of stress cracks, due in large part to excessive rainfall. Some cracks healed significantly with applications of diluted bleach and fan drying. With heavy rainfall in September, Mr. Givens snipped the umbilical cord.

“With those stress cracks, and if I didn’t cut it away and all the energy was still going up there to it, those stress cracks would have gotten longer,” said Mr. Givens, who holds the Delaware giant pumpkin weight record at 1,436 pounds with a green pumpkin set several years ago. “I had to cut it loose. If not, we would not be harvesting anything here today. It would have just cracked and collapsed.”

Mark Clausen, left, and Ed Givens place a harness on the pumpkin so it can be hoisted from the garden. (Delaware State News/Glenn Rolfe)

Once safely in the front yard, Ms. Givens kiddingly made note of the stress cracks. “They’re like stretch marks!” she proclaimed.

Based on size, Mr. Givens guessed “Cindy” weighed more than 1,500 pounds.

About 70 people attended the harvest celebration, which included food, drink, games and a trunk or treat.

Chuck Emerson and several others helped Mr. Givens carefully guide “Cindy” along as Mr. Clausen slowly maneuvered the pumpkin on the pallet from the patch to the front yard.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said Mr. Emerson, who congratulated Mr. Givens with a handshake, adding. “It’s a beauty, Ed.”

Interestingly, Mr. Givens, who retired several years ago after a 40-year career with Burris Logistics, announced last year he might not be in the giant pumpkin business this year.

“I told most of you last year that I wasn’t going to grow one this year. I told my wife more than one time that I wasn’t going to grow another one this year. But you see what happens,” said Mr. Givens. “And the only reason I got to grow a pumpkin this year is that I promised it would be orange. For four years in a row, we’ve been green.”

The decision was made on April 26.

“Cindy said, ‘OK Ed, you can grow a pumpkin this year.’ One of the stipulations was that it had to be orange. The last four years we’ve grown green pumpkins,” said Mr. Givens. “The next day we’re getting ready to go to Wisconsin to see our grandchildren and to take Cindy to see Bon Jovi for her birthday.”

“I got to see Bon Jovi — and a pumpkin!” Ms. Givens said with a chuckle.

The special seeds came from Pennsylvania. The “mother” was planted in the greenhouse April 26.

“I planted four seeds in a little greenhouse in the house. We go to Wisconsin, come back and they are all up,” Mr. givens said.

June 22 was pollination day.

Ed Givens hugs his giant orange pumpkin before it leaves his patch for judging.

“I took four males, so the mother weighed 1,795 pounds; the father, 1,975 also. These males came from the same plant. Since it is self-pollination, mother and father, both were 1,795,” Mr. Givens explained.

With endless tender loving care, Mr. Givens nurtured several plants, and wound up with one – “Cindy.”

John Rutherford, Mr. Givens’ father-in-law, says the soil in Ed’s pumpkin patch is probably “the richest” soil in all of Sussex County “with what he puts on it and does to it.”

Along the way Mr. Givens kept a daily journal, documenting temperature, rainfall, special growth milestones and significant dates, pruning and pollination. “Every Friday is picture day,” said Mr. Givens.

Growth spurts abounded in July and August. “Forty-five to 50 pounds a day. They were putting on weight to beat the band,” said Mr. Givens. “It’s amazing how fast the pumpkin grows. That probably is what fascinates me the most, to come out here and take a stick and put it next to the pumpkin two inches away and come back eight hours later and it is right up against it.”

But a rainy September brought major concern and stress cracks. “We had 9.3 inches rain here in three weeks, and in one period we had 6.1 inches in one week,” said Mr. Givens, who feared he might lose this pumpkin. “The major crack, I sprayed with 10 percent bleach for three straight weeks and a fan has been on it 24/7. Some stress cracks healed up pretty good.”

Mark Clausen mans the Bobcat as Ed Givens, left, and Chuch Emerson help guide the giant pumpkin from the patch.

Like last year, Mr. Givens’ giant pumpkin did not make the return trip.

“The pumpkin is already in front of the West Reading Tavern,” said Mr. Givens.

Last year, Mr. Givens sold his giant pumpkin to the West Reading Tavern, an English pub, which used it as the foundation for a spectacular spook-tacular showcase work of art.

“They had it out front. The Food Network champion carver came down and carved it. He just did a magnificent job. He’s a professional, all kids of carving tools on his wristband. Just a masterpiece,” said Mr. Givens. “So … I might sell it.”

Mr. Givens says he is willing to offer seeds and information/tips on growing king-size pumpkins to those with giant pumpkin aspirations.

“So hopefully they can get hooked, like I am,” said Mr. Givens.

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