The most recent version of the Tennessee State Fair has ended — during which, no doubt, each attendee joyously experienced what likely amounted to a year’s worth of cotton candy and the aroma of livestock dung.
Since 1906, the annual event has thrilled folks with games, rides, contests and junk food. However, an unusual contest likely escaped the attention of many fair-goers, as it took place Sept. 7, before the Ferris wheel was turning and the dunking booth was soaking.
Indeed, Nashville was home on 9/7/11 to some of the world’s largest pumpkins. And we’re not talking about run-of-the-mill 50-pound jack-o-lanterns. These symbols of fall, Halloween and a certain tasty pie are to size what Lady Gaga is to pop culture, New York City is to skylines and Karl Dean is to the chamber of commerce crowd.
On this September day, a “heaviest pumpkin” contest was held. The winner — lovingly raised by super-sized fruit/vegetable master Frank Mudd, of Flaherty, Ky. — tipped the scales at an eye-popping 1,014 pounds. Officials calculated this lone bulbous vegetable could yield 300 pumpkin pies and, if dropped from the L&C Tower, cover SoBro with a sea of seeds and pulp.
George M. Killgore oversaw the madness, as he has done since he started such contests in Fentress County 20 years ago.
“It’s all about bragging rights and trying to get into the Guinness World Records,” said Killgore, who serves as the fair’s Agriculture Hall chairman and as director of the UT/TSU agricultural extension office for Davidson County.
To understand the magnitude of the pumpkin contest, consider that the smallest pumpkin in the lineup weighed 573 pounds. Huge, but the world record is more than 1,800 pounds.
Killgore also directed a watermelon contest, with the winning melon a hefty 225 pounds and courtesy of veteran grower Cris Kent of Sevierville, Tenn. Kent holds the Guinness World Record watermelon weight of 291 pounds, set in 2010.
“The whole thing about all of this is it’s mostly done by hobbyists,” Killgore said. “By people who love to grow things.”