FORT GAY — A Wayne County resident broke West Virginia records for the largest pumpkin grown twice in one week, and now one will be auctioned off at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival in Milton and the other will be on display at Kenova’s Pumpkin house.
Robert Cyrus, of Fort Gay, was recognized for breaking the West Virginia record for largest grown pumpkin on Sept. 25 with the gourd weighing in at 1,803.5 pounds.
On Oct. 2, he traveled to Tennessee with another pumpkin, this one weighing 2,194 pounds. and will be registering the new record-breaking pumpkin at the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival beginning Thursday.
Cyrus said he enjoys winning, but his favorite part of growing pumpkins is including his family.
“The best part about the thing is, even when you’re a winner, is it wasn’t about that. It’s not about the winning,” he said. “I wanted to win, of course I did, but the big thing that I won’t forget is that my kids were with me because I know they’ll never forget that. It’ll always be in their mind even when I’m long gone, I don’t think they’ll ever forget that.”
Cyrus spoke about heading to Allardt, Tennessee Oct. 2 to participate in a Giant Pumpkin Commonwealth competition, and after winning the title for largest pumpkin, participated in the town’s parade.
Cyrus said the community was welcoming, and he was excited to participate in his first parade with his family.
Cyrus began growing giant pumpkins about six years ago. Originally being recognized for locally growing a giant watermelon, Cyrus’s daughter, Lisa Rardin, and his grandson Max, got pumpkin seeds for Cyrus in 2015.
In his first competition with the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, Cyrus said he had a pumpkin that weighed about 1,060 lbs. Since then, he has gone on to break his own record each year, with the exception of last year when he chose not to participate and two individuals from Kentucky took over the title.
Rardin said when the family started growing pumpkins, no one knew what to do. After reading as much material as possible and receiving feedback from other growers over the years, she said it has become a family tradition to plant and raise the pumpkins.
“The kids will pick the seed, and there will be a few different ones. And when it goes in the ground, we spend every evening down there on the patch,” she said. “Even my youngest one, my two-year-old, she carries around the measuring tape for my dad. They just know now to get all the equipment out to measure and do everything we got to do; it’s a big deal for us.
From measuring size and checking for diseases, Rardin said the family is all in to help out Cyrus each year.
Cyrus, now 71-years-old, said with all the work that is put into raising the pumpkins each year, it may be time for a break. Despite this, he said there is always a chance he will change his mind.
“This is a lot, there is a lot that goes into taking care of the pumpkin and I told my family I may take the year off and just let my soil rest and take care of everything else,” he said. “But come spring time, once the sun is out, I just might change my mind and start all over again.”
While the 2,194 lbs. pumpkin will be auctioned off in the West Virginia Pumpkin Festival, the 1,803 lbs. will be sold to Del. Ric Griffith and put on display for this year’s Pumpkin House.
Griffith said he is inviting an artist to come design and carve the pumpkin and he is excited for people to see the largest pumpkin the house has ever had.
Rardin said she is excited to have everyone see the pumpkins on display in the community. With all of the things that could go wrong during the growth season, it is a relief to see a successfully grown pumpkin in the fall.
“You’re on pins and needles all summer basically, from the time pollination happens in June until the day you pick it,” she said. “It’s great though, it’s so exciting to know his pumpkin is going to be up at the Pumpkin House and the other out in Milton. It’s wonderful.”