By Linda Scherer
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN A little sibling rivalry between two brothers who grew up in Lester Prairie may have the potential to produce a record-breaking pumpkin.
The “pumpkin adventure” began this spring, when Tony Hausladen of Lester Prairie decided that he had enough of his older brother, Paul, taunting him at family gatherings, for the last several years, reminding Tony that Paul was the one who grew the largest pumpkin.
This was back in the late ‘70s. Paul, who now lives in Champagne, IL, grew a pumpkin Tony estimates to have weighed 200 pounds and got his picture in the town paper for his efforts.
“Since my wife, Kim, and I have a fairly large garden that we both put a lot of time and energy into, I decided this past winter to try some large pumpkins to silence the competition,” Tony said.
They started by purchasing five seeds through a company in Canada for $24.50 (shipping included). Two of the seeds came from a parent pumpkin that was more than 1,000 pounds. When the seeds arrived, they gave the plants a head-start by planting them in the house.
Only three of the five seeds germinated.
“After the plants got big enough, we transplanted them into the garden and let Mother Nature take over,” Tony said. “We really didn’t do anything special, other than weed the immediate area around the plants and water them when it was dry out.”
Throughout the summer, the pumpkin plants grew in earnest and soon, the vines were growing outside of what the Hausladens considered a large garden.
By August, Tony realized they were going to have some fairly large pumpkins, and he began to look for local pumpkin competitions to enter a pumpkin in.
“I wanted to get it officially weighed because I didn’t want any speculation on the actual weight,” Tony said.
Finally the day arrived for Tony to show his brother who the master family gardener is.
They took the largest of their eight pumpkins to the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth (GPC) weigh-off which was part of the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Stillwater Oct. 9. The actual weighing is conducted through the GPC which started in 1993. The GPC is a nonprofit organization that conducts weigh-off competitions for what some people call “extreme gardening,” according to Tony.
“Since it was my first time at a pumpkin weigh-off, I really didn’t know what to expect,” Tony said. “There were a total of 50 pumpkins that came to the weigh-off. I quickly found out that my big pumpkin was just a baby compared to the ones that had shown up earlier.”
Later in the day, the Hausladens found out that a new world record was set at the competition by a pumpkin that weighed 1,810.5 pounds, grown by Chris Steven from Richmond, WI.
“They started by weighing the smaller pumpkins and worked their way up to the big ones,” Tony said. “I was delightfully surprised to find out that my pumpkin weighed in at 575.5 pounds. I was hoping for over 500 pounds, so I was very pleased with the first year showing.”
And of course, Tony was pleased because he was able to tell Paul that his pumpkin was almost triple the size of his brother’s.
Tony’s great pumpkin adventure isn’t over. He plans to exchange some seeds with other growers in an effort to try for a pumpkin more than 1,000 pounds next year.
“I am hoping we can get a few large pumpkins at the McLeod County Fair next year, and maybe at the Minnesota State Fair, from the 4-H Club,” Tony said.
During the Hausladens’ 4-H open house Oct. 16, the great pumpkin was carved into a massive jack-o-lantern with the help of Tony and Kim’s two children, Paige and Nathaniel, and members of the Winsted Jolly Juniors 4-H Club. Seeds from the pumpkin were handed out to the members.
The jack-o-lantern now resides at the end of the Hausladen’s driveway as a reminder to the brothers who the master gardener currently is.