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The largest pumpkin ever entered in the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off in Half Moon Bay, Calif., was the focus of attention Monday morning Oct. 14, 2013. The pumpkin, weighing 1985 lbs., was grown by Gary Miller of Napa. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)

HALF MOON BAY -- It was a wine country sweep Monday at the West Coast's premiere giant pumpkin weigh-off. For the first time organizers can remember, the five heaviest gourds were grown not just in California but in a single Bay Area region.

Gary Miller, of Napa, won the title with a rhinoceros-sized pumpkin that registered 1,985 pounds, the heaviest in the 40-year history of the Half Moon Bay contest. In a North Bay rout, second and third place went to fellow Napa growers Tim Mathison and Leonardo Urena, while two Santa Rosa cultivators grabbed fourth and fifth.

Miller likened his victory to "winning a marathon." The 66-year-old landscape designer, who lives near Mathison and shares seeds and tips with him, patiently tended more than 10 half-ton pumpkins in his garden this summer. He celebrated his win with three of his four young grandchildren.

"My secret is just working my butt off," said Miller, adding his goal now is to grow a pumpkin that tops a metric ton, or 2,205 pounds. "I'm just getting started."

The Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off began just after dawn Monday in a parking lot on Main Street in Half Moon Bay. As the sun burned away the early morning chill, the squash got bigger and bigger. A crowd of a couple hundred people gaped at pale orange gourds shaped like half-deflated rugby balls.

The Half Moon Bay weigh-off has been dominated recently by Oregon and Washington growers, who until Monday had won eight of the past 10 competitions. Last year's winner, Thad Starr, of Pleasant Hill, Ore., set a new California record of 1,775 pounds.

But that mark was obliterated this year as cross-pollinating backyard Frankensteins continue to test the limits of the Atlantic Giant pumpkin. Miller's winning entry Monday, descended from a 1,409-pound squash he grew in 2010, was more than double the weight of the 2000 winner, which was just 940 pounds.

Miller will take home $11,910 for Monday's win, plus $1,00 for biggest California pumpkin. But his cash haul this season has been modest compared with that of Mathison, who put together a monster growing season capped by setting a new world record Saturday for heaviest pumpkin in a contest at Uesugi Farms near Morgan Hill.

Mathison, who entered three different pumpkins weighing a total of nearly three tons in contests this month, is poised to claim the Great Pumpkin Commonwealth's title of world "grower of the year."

Mathison won $2,000 on Monday, on top of $11,247 for an 1,874.5-pounder that won the Elk Grove weigh-off Oct. 5 and $15,724 for the 2,032-pound colossus that flattened the competition over the weekend. He'll get a $15,776 bonus from Uesugi Farms if his world record stands through the end of the weighing season Nov. 1.

After the competition, Mathison walked into the crowd to find his "angel and inspiration" -- 24-year-old daughter Tara, who cannot speak or walk due to a developmental disorder called Rett syndrome. She accompanied her father to the pumpkin patch every evening this summer, offering quiet encouragement.

"We got second place, honey," said Mathison, leaning over her wheelchair. "We did good."

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.