The two largest pumpkins ever weighed in Colorado will be on display this weekend in Denver and Aurora

Get your gourd on this weekend at the Denver Botanic Gardens or at Aurora Fire Station 11.

The largest pumpkin ever weighed in Colorado

Chad New and his family pose with their pumpkin, Howie, after it was officially named the largest pumpkin ever grown in Colorado. The weigh-in was held Oct. 1, 2022 at Nick's Garden Center in Aurora.

Courtesy of Chad New

They are the two largest pumpkins ever grown in Colorado. They were grown by different people. But they are related, and both will be making public appearances this weekend.

Greta, the second largest pumpkin officially recorded in Colorado, will make a special appearance at Aurora Fire Station 11 this Friday to provide some Halloween spirit and promote Fire Prevention Week.

The 1,729-pound Atlantic Giant pumpkin has been on a victory tour since it won the Fort Collins Nursery’s annual Great Pumpkin Weigh-Off on Saturday, just over a week after its relative was named the largest pumpkin in state history.

Second largest pumpkin in Colorado

Brad Bledsoe's daughters sit on Greta, Colorado's second largest pumpkin, at their home in Fort Collins, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022.

Courtesy of Brad Bledsoe

Greta’s grower, Aurora firefighter Bred Bledsoe, said his family began working on giant vegetable projects last year. He hoped growing one large pumpkin would help fill the space left behind by some grass he’d removed from his corner lot in Fort Collins.

“That first pumpkin was 195 pounds, which was really cool. All of the neighbors were like, ‘Hey, this is the biggest pumpkin we’ve ever seen.’ But I knew we could grow something bigger,” Bledsoe said.

Bledsoe grew up on a farm and spent time working at a nursery, so he knew how to care for normal plants. He quickly made some connections in Colorado’s giant vegetable community, which he described as welcoming but very competitive. Even with help from new friends and his family, things got off to a rough start.

“At first, it was kind of stressful. I’d been calling the pumpkin plant ‘Princess Murder Pumpkin,’ just because I felt like it was trying to die on me,” he said.

His luck soon turned around. Once the pumpkin began steadily growing, it was time to name it. Bledsoe’s wife Stacy had a long talk with their two daughters, and together, they settled on Greta. There was no turning back at that point.

“I put an ambitious goal out there. I was like, ‘Let’s grow a thousand pounds. I think we can do that, but like, we’re gonna have to do everything right just to get to a thousand pounds.’ But realistically in the back of my head, I was like, ‘I think let’s go for 500 pounds.'” Bledsoe said. “Pretty early on we hit 500 pounds and I was like, ‘Okay, we can get to a thousand.’ And then once I hit 1,000, I was like, ‘Maybe we can get to 1,500.'”

Greta beat that goal but fell just short of a new state record set earlier this month by Chad New, a Parker pet store owner who has spent the last seven years experimenting with giants.

His pumpkin, Howie, weighed in at 1,783 pounds during an Oct. 1 weigh-off at Nick’s Garden Center in Aurora.

That broke the state record of 1,685 pounds set in 2016, officially making Howie the biggest pumpkin Colorado has ever seen.

“Last year, I missed the state record by eight pounds. So my goal was to just improve incrementally to get to the state record,” New said. “As we were harvesting the pumpkin and getting it outta the greenhouse, I got my tractor stuck. They almost tipped [Howie] over. It was a calamity of errors. And because of all that, I knew the pumpkin was pretty heavy. I was pretty hopeful.”

The connection between Howie and Greta began when Bledsoe lost a different pumpkin in his backyard. He wanted to make sure the pumpkin that eventually became Greta was pollinated by a healthy, genetically sound plant. That’s when he called New.

Bledsoe said he became friends with New early on and kept in touch with him throughout the growing season. Once it was time to pollinate his pumpkin, Bledsoe reached out to borrow some of New’s male flowers. New agreed and took Bledsoe on a tour of his greenhouse, where he picked out Howie as a pollinator.

“The pumpkin that set the state record is what pollinated the second biggest pumpkin ever grown in Colorado, so I felt like we locked in some pretty cool genetics,” Bledsoe said.

New said he’s proud of Bledsoe for making so much progress in just two years. He hopes the fresh competition will push him to keep growing, and the two plan to keep bouncing ideas off each other. As long as his friend stays at least a pound behind his record, New is happy.

“The beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” New said with a laugh. “A giant pumpkin [is] just something that makes you smile and kind of say to yourself, ‘Holy moly, that’s a big pumpkin.’ The level of holy moly just increases the bigger the pumpkin gets.”

Greta’s appearance at Aurora Fire Station 11, 2291 S. Joliet St., will run from 3 to 5 p.m. Friday. The Bledsoe family plans to eventually turn it into a massive jack-o’-lantern, but they still haven’t decided on a design. Bledsoe hopes to auction off some of Greta’s seeds ahead of the next growing season.

Howie goes on display at the Denver Botanic Gardens’ main York St. location today, Oct. 13. Anyone with a general admission ticket can visit it at the amphitheater, where it will stay until at least Oct. 26. It will also be featured during the sold-out Glow At The Gardens event next week.

The Botanic Gardens says once that all wraps up, New will crack Howie open for seeds and the pumpkin will be composted onsite. Greta will eventually become hog feed. Snap your historic gourd selfies while you can.

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