BANGOR, Maine — When the “pumpkin momma” and her farmer boyfriend drove over to the Bangor Community Garden on Saturday they carried along a 503.4 pound yellow pumpkin in the back of their truck that attracted quite a bit of attention.
“Everyone was like ‘Cool pumpkin’ and giving us the thumbs up and I’m like, ‘That’s the baby,’” Sarah Whitty said after arriving at the garden on Essex Street.
Whitty and Dale Hartt, one of Maine’s mixed martial arts pioneers and former Ultimate Fighting Championship fighter, went to the garden to pick up another pumpkin that is nearly twice as large, an estimated 800-pound orange gourd nicknamed Peanut.
Whitty planted the seeds on May 1 and the massive pumpkin is heading down to the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest and Regatta, and may be made into a boat for the pumpkinboat regatta on Oct. 12. The couple got the Atlantic Giant Pumpkin seeds from an 1,695 pound pumpkin that last year set the state record.
“I had to shovel the snow off the ground,” Whitty said of the planting.
The area around the plants also was covered and heated for the first month to provide the seeds the best possible start, she said. The couple grew three massive pumpkins this year, the 503.4 pounder in the back of their truck that was showcased at the Common Ground Fair and an 1,100-pounder that went to a contest in New Hampshire.
The third seed, Peanut, was transplanted in the Bangor Community Garden, and the couple plans to donate its seeds to the Master Gardeners of Penobscot County, a part of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
Byron Hale, a local angler, and volunteer at the garden said that many in the community helped to water the pumpkin and watched and recorded its growth over the last couple of months. The garden is located at the former Navy Reserve Center at 402 Essex St. that closed in 2003. The first community garden was planted in 2011 and it now has 79 beds out back and 68 raised beds in the front. On Saturday, Hale and his grandchildren measured the massive vegetable, which had a circumference of 154 inches.
“I started out with a 60-inch [measuring] tape. That didn’t last long,” Hale joked.
Garden coordinator Kate Garland, a horticulturist for UMaine’s Cooperative Extension, said many of the local gardeners enjoyed watching “peanut” and helping the plant grow.
“Peanut has been a fun addition to the garden,” she said in an email. “Her presence has helped bring members together for a common cause — watering, hand-picking pests, measuring and cheering her on throughout the season.”
Hartt, whose first UFC victory came when he broke the leg of his opponent in the second round of his UFC Fight Night 16 bout in 2008, said he is really looking forward to the regatta, especially since he couldn’t fit into the pumpkin they brought last year and wasn’t able to participate.
“We’re really good paddlers,” he said, a grin spreading across his face.