By: Lydia Crawley
The Parsons Advocate
A 989 lb pumpkin grown in a yard in Thomas has been on display at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. The pumpkin gained notoriety since the Dollywood Facebook page featured a photo of it on October 20.
Nelson said his pumpkin was purchased for Dollywood by a fellow giant pumpkin grower. “One of the other growers that we know buys for Dollywood,” Nelson said. “He’s from Pennsylvania. Andy Wolf. They buy every year for Dollywood.”
The purchase for Dollywood occurred at the West Virginia weigh off event in Craigsville, according to Nelson. “He was at our West Virginia Weigh Off and I sold it to him there to take to Dollywood,” Nelson said. “And that was at the weigh off in Craigsville the Mountain State Giant’s Weigh Off.”
According to Nelson, his pumpkin along with three or four others were purchased at the event for Dollywood. “He bought three or four other ones there, too,” Nelson said. “But the reason mine blowed up is because Dollywood put it on their Facebook page. That’s how everybody started picking up that it was there.”
Nelson said that he has also donated pumpkins, as well. “I have one in Hamilton, Ohio, that I donated, that is carved,” Nelson said. “It was a thousand pounder.”
Nelson’s pumpkins are on display in several locations, according to Nelson. “I had one on display at the North Carolina State Fair,” Nelson said. “And there is one at a business somewhere around D.C. I don’t know exactly what business got it. They’re scattered out.”
Nelson held the West Virginia state record in 2020 with a pumpkin that weighed 1,686 lbs. However, the new state record stands at 2,194 lbs set in 2021 by Bob Cyrus, according to Nelson. “Bob Cyrus had the record at 15-something,” Nelson said. “And I beat his record with 1686 and he come back the next year with the 2194 and got the record back.”
Nelson said that the new record would be very hard for him to beat from his location in Thomas on top of the mountain. “For me, that’s going to be hard to beat on top of this mountain,” Nelson said. “He’s from down around Charleston. They got a lot better weather.”
According to Nelson, this year has been hard for pumpkin growers. “It’s been a pretty bad year,” Nelson said, “because of the weather. And then I didn’t think of it at the time, but the smoke…once we got to going to all these other shows, the growers were talking about that killed them, made it like shade cloth and they didn’t get the growth. Most of my stuff is right around a thousand pounds and usually, I’m 14 to 17 hundred pounds.”
Another weather factor was the May snowfall this year, according to Nelson. “But then again, we had that snow in May, too,” Nelson said.
Nelson said that he generally gets his pumpkins pollinated by June, but the weather delayed his pumpkins until late July. “I usually got pumpkins set, I pollinate them by hand and I usually have them pollinated by June,” Nelson said. “But I didn’t have them set until like the end of July.”
According to Nelson, he was able to get healthy pumpkins, even with the weather conditions. “We had healthy pumpkins,” Nelson said. “They were small, but we made it to six weigh offs.”
He first began growing giant pumpkins about 20 years ago, Nelson said. “I growed probably 20 years ago,” Nelson said. “I got interested in it and it started that I worked out of town so I couldn’t take real good care of them. I would grow them and give them to the kids in the neighborhood. I’d grow 5, 600 pounders.”
According to Nelson, he likely had state records, but did not show his pumpkins at the time. “At that time, it was probably state records, but I never took them to weigh offs or anything like that,” Nelson said.
Nelson attributed his break in growing to his work out of town. “But then it got to be too much,” Nelson said. “I had a lot of work out of town so I quit.”
According to Nelson, he began growing the plants again once he retired. “And then when I retired, I started doing it again,” Nelson said. “So, I’ve been doing it again for about six or seven years.”