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MARSHFIELD

Giant pumpkin smashes record at Marshfield Fair

Steve Connolly of Sharon was the proud winner of the New England Giant Pumpkin Contest at the Marshfield Fair - with his record-breaking 1,602 pound entry. (Nancy Connolly)
Nancy Connolly
Steve Connolly of Sharon with his 1,602-pound winner at the Marshfield Fair.

A Sharon man won bragging rights to the biggest pumpkin at the Marshfield Fair — a smooth-skinned, misshapen orange blob that weighed 1,602 pounds.

“I was very surprised,” Steve Connolly said of the size of his prize, which beat the Marshfield Fair record by 362 pounds at the weigh-off Saturday. “I knew it was on track to being a big one, but it went way over its expected weight.”

Connolly, an engineer, has been growing giant pumpkins in his home garden for the past 30 years – ever since he saw his first big one at the Topsfield Fair. Since then, he’s won the Topsfield contest three times, setting a state record in 2016 with a 2,075.5-pounder.

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Connolly’s big orange things have been blown up on the David Letterman show, sawed in half on Japanese TV, carved by artists for Halloween displays, and been featured on a Martha Stewart broadcast.

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Connolly said growing the mega-squash requires skill and luck with a key component: using seeds with a proven lineage of bigness. Then there’s a constant analysis of the soil, and tissue testing of the leaves to make sure the plant is getting the right quality and quantity of nutrients.

Growers have to hand-pollinate the flowers, protect the plants from too much or too little sun and water, and then carefully cull the number of fruits on the vine to a single promising one that will grow about 50 pounds a day until it can be delicately loaded by a crane onto a trailer at the end of the season.

Connolly said he plans to display his Marshfield Fair winner at Ward’s Berry Farm in Sharon and then harvest the seeds — probably collecting 600 of them — which he’ll replant, sell, trade, and give away to other giant pumpkin aficionados.

Although he loves pumpkin pie, Connolly has no plans for using his winner for that purpose. “These types of pumpkins, the Atlantic giants, they taste like cardboard,” he said.

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seltzjohanna@gmail.com.