Inside the State Fair’s Best in Show Pumpkin

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Now that I’m a full-time media empire startup company, it’s my job to find relevant and entertaining content for you all to consume. There’s no better place for finding said content than the North Carolina State Fair. I returned to the State Fair despite having a bad taste in my mouth from being ignored by Vanilla Ice a few years ago. I figured I could do an ITB food critic review of all the deep fried delicacies, which I’ll post tomorrow. What I didn’t expect, was to end up interviewing the gentleman who grew the 685 pound pumpkin that was named Best in Show.

While taking a break after eating my deep fried Reese’s Oreo (4 out of 5 beltlines), I walked through the Expo Center full of gigantic vegetables and regular sized livestock. When I came across the award winning pumpkins I knew I had to post something about how they would be turned into pumpkin spice lattes for basic Raleigh residents. An ITB reader let me know that her father, Sam Jenkins III, was the owner and grower of the blue ribbon winning pumpkin.

Not only did his pumpkin win Best in Show, but his name contains Roman numerals. I obviously had to talk with Mr. Jenkins III to learn more. Below is our interview.

WNFIV: First, congratulations on growing a pumpkin that was best in show, not only inside the beltline, but inside the entire state.

Jenkins III: Thanks, I actually grew the pumpkin in Elizabeth City, but our passion for growing pumpkins began at our Raleigh home many years ago.


WNFIV: Don’t worry, Elizabeth City is an ITB satellite location because my grandmother lived there for a few years. Anyway, how did you get into growing pumpkins and how long have you been doing this?

Jenkins III: I have always loved the thought of giant vegetables and I’ve actually been growing several different kinds for several years. I heard about the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin through another grower friend. He gave me my first plant in 2010. I have been obsessed with growing the largest pumpkin possible ever since.

WNFIV: And was this your first entry into the North Carolina State Fair?

Jenkins III: This was my third entry. I won 5th place in 2013. We had 2 pumpkins in 2014 that won 1st and 2nd place in the “true to type” category. This year was special as I won Best in Show!

WNFIV: Sounds like the third time’s a charm. So what goes in to growing an award winning 685 pound pumpkin?

Jenkins III: A LOT of hard work, constant daily evaluations, checking amendments, and hours and hours of insect repelling. A lot of tender, love, and care.

WNFIV: Wow, I wish my parents loved me that much. And how did you transport the pumpkin to the State Fair? Would it fit in a Tahoe?

Jenkins III: I supposed it could fit in a Tahoe. We used a pickup truck and loaded the pumpkin using a forklift.

WNFIV: I noticed that one of the other pumpkins in my picture was purchased by a brewery. Will they actually use it to make pumpkin beer?

Jenkins III: Aviator Brewing Company is making a pumpkin beer from what I hear. At the time of judging you decide whether or not your pumpkin will be up for sale. I’ll be giving this pumpkin to my grandchildren. That’s worth more than any dollar amount anyone or any brewery could offer.

WNFIV: It’s getting dusty in here. That’s the nicest thing I’ve ever heard. Do they use pumpkins like this for making pumpkin spice lattes?

Jenkins III: I’m not “basic” enough to know for sure, but the thing about large pumpkins is that there are a lot of chemicals involved. Although, the majority of my fertilizer was organic fish emulsion and seaweed.

WNFIV: “Organic fish emulsion and seaweed” sounds like the next concept restaurant on Person Street. How much do these pumpkins sell for? If this is a profitable venture I may need to add “pumpkin growing” as a new vertical in my media empire.

Jenkins III: A contest in California gives $7 a pound, but I believe the other large pumpkins at the NC State Fair sold for only about $350. Honestly, it takes so much work to nurture a pumpkin of this size. I wouldn’t see it being profitable, unless you had an army of pumpkin growers working for you.

WNFIV: An army of pumpkin growers….I do have a lot of friends with small children….the cost of labor would be low….sorry, I’ll think about that more later. So from here the pumpkin goes to your grandchildren. I was really hoping I could carve the shape of the beltline into it and put it on display at Broughton.

Jenkins III: As I said before, the pumpkin’s going to my grandchildren but you are more than welcome to carve the beautiful ITB logo into it. The trip to Elizabeth City is a nice one.

WNFIV: I may just take you up on that. Will you be back competing again next year?

Jenkins III: If the Lord is willing. Pumpkin growing is a great hobby and I believe you will see this trend continue to grow. I would love to share some seeds with you. Thanks for taking the time to interview me.

WNFIV: The pleasure was all mine. I’d love to try my hand at pumpkin growing. Thanks for your time, and congratulations once again.

“Sam’s Seeds”, NC State Fair Blue Ribbon Pumpkin Seeds, are now available for purchase. E-mail for more information. Also, stay tuned for ITB themed pumpkin carving designs that will be released this week.



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