HALF MOON BAY -- Ron Root won't be offended if you call his pumpkin fat.
In fact, Root was thrilled when his fleshy gourd weighed in at 1,535 pounds on Monday, giving him the grand prize at the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off.
Root, 50, watched with pride this summer as the seed he planted in April grew into the bloated white-orange monstrosity that tipped the scales toward victory. At $6 a pound, he brought home $9,210 in winnings.
This was Root's fourth year entering the contest but he said he wasn't expecting to win.
"It's every giant pumpkin grower's dream to win this contest," said Root, of Citrus Heights, just northeast of Sacramento.
Second place went to Brant Bordsen, of Marysville, whose pumpkin weighed in at 1,476 pounds. Leonardo Urena, of Napa, took third place with a 1,401-pound gourd.
Root's pumpkin did not set a new weight record for the contest. However, a record 14 pumpkins topped 1,000 pounds, the most pumpkins of a half-ton or more to have been entered in a single competition.
It was the first time since 1999 that a California pumpkin won the grand prize. The prestige of Half Moon Bay's weigh-off, now in its 37th year, has attracted winners from Oregon, Washington and even Iowa for more than a decade. This year they stayed home and Californians bested everyone else with a collection of overgrown, green-tinged squashes that only a mother could love.
Between special soil, fertilizer and fungi additives to stimulate his massive plants, Root says he probably spent $3,000 growing seven pumpkins on a farm in Citrus Heights since April.
"It gets into your blood. Once you grow one, you've got to grow another one," said Root, who often spent entire days knee-deep in the pumpkin patch, pruning, checking, watering, covering and uncovering his overgrown gourds.
In pumpkins, as in fine art, provenance is everything. The one ingredient you can't add later on is the seed. Ironically, the seed for Root's contest winner came from a pumpkin raised by Leonardo Urena, the Napa grower who won third place this year.
Although they are competitive, Atlantic Giant growers are a chummy and elite club who meet once a year to swap tips on growing techniques and pumpkin pitfalls -- as well as trade seeds.
A "proven" seed -- one with a lineage of championship giant pumpkins, spanning 10 or 20 generations -- can auction for hundreds of dollars.
But Urena doesn't regret giving Root the winning seed, especially as he's likely to ask for one of Root's next year.
"My seeds are free. I don't think it's right to take advantage of other growers in selling them," he said.
After the seeds are extracted from its inner chambers, Root's championship pumpkin will meet an ignominious end and be recycled into feed for the horses and chickens on the farm it grew up on.
But not before it takes a final victory lap as the guest of honor in the Great Pumpkin Parade on Saturday as part of this weekend's annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, which is free to attend.
Contact Julia Scott at 650-348-4340.