Minnesota Teacher Grows 2,749-Pound Pumpkin, Squashing The Competition And Setting A World Record

Published October 12, 2023

Travis Gienger's pumpkin, nicknamed "Michael Jordan," broke the world record of just over 2,700 pounds set in Italy two years ago.

Travis Gienger, 2023 World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off Winner

Miramar EventsTravis Gienger and his 2,749-pound pumpkin at the 2023 World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off in Half Moon Bay, California.

Travis Gienger is no stranger to massive gourds, and he just seems to keep outdoing himself.

He’s won three of the past four World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off competitions, but this year, Gienger continued to push the limits of the field, entering a gourd into the competition that came in at a staggering 2,749 pounds and set a new world record. And it was a gourd he originally had little faith in.

Back in the spring, when Gienger first started growing this massive pumpkin, it was nothing more than a small, perfectly round orange shape growing in his backyard. He named the pumpkin “Michael Jordan” because it resembled a basketball. Looking at it today, though, it’s nothing like a basketball.

“The greatest basketball player of all time is now the greatest pumpkin of all time!” Gienger told Minnesota Public Radio. “I thought it was going to be basketball round, but it’s not. It grew into this.”

Gienger, a resident of Minnesota, made the journey from his hometown of Anoka all the way to Half Moon Bay, California for the annual pumpkin competition. It was his third trip hauling a massive gourd out there and his third time winning.

But this time, he didn’t just win the competition — he set a new world record. The previous world record holder for heaviest pumpkin belonged to an Italian grower, who grew a 2,702-pound squash in 2021. Weighing just 47 pounds more than the previous recordholder, Gienger’s gourd is now officially the heaviest pumpkin on record.

Gienger’s gourd came with more than just a title, too. His massive pumpkin earned him $30,000 in prize money and a commemorative jacket that Gienger says is “like for the Masters. But probably more important.”

And Gienger’s success wasn’t just dumb luck. He’s a horticulture teacher who has been growing pumpkins ever since he was a teenager, following in his father’s footsteps. After winning the competition last year, he knew just what he had to do in order to take things up a notch.

Michael Jordan The Pumpkin

Miramar EventsGienger’s pumpkin, Michael Jordan — recently declared the heaviest pumpkin in the world.

“I pretty much just upped what I was doing before and used better fertilizer and biology,” he told the Star Tribune.

This year, Gienger also used a new type of seed, a 2365 Wolf, which has a record of growing into ridiculously large pumpkins.

Despite squashing the competition this year, though, Gienger was still fixating on what could have been. In the same patch in his backyard, he had been growing a second pumpkin — one he was sure would have been even bigger than his prize winner. It weighed around 2,222 pounds and had been growing at an average of 43 pounds per day before it split back in August.

“I felt like I could have had a bigger one,” he said. “I might have to grow that seed again next year.”

Regardless, it’s undoubtedly impressive that Gienger was able to grow such a massive pumpkin at all. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he raises his pumpkins outside rather than in a climate-controlled facility.

“This one was grown right outside in Minnesota, with all the weather and storms and all that,” Gienger said.

After reading about Travis Gienger and his record-setting pumpkin, read about the Nebraska man who sailed 38 miles down the Missouri River in a pumpkin boat. Or, read about the U.S. woman who recently broke the world record for longest beard on a female.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Matt Crabtree
Matt Crabtree is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. A writer and editor based in Salt Lake City, Utah, Matt has a Bachelor's degree in journalism from Utah State University and a passion for idiosyncratic news and stories that offer unique perspectives on the world, film, politics, and more.
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Harvey, Austin. "Minnesota Teacher Grows 2,749-Pound Pumpkin, Squashing The Competition And Setting A World Record." AllThatsInteresting.com, October 12, 2023, https://allthatsinteresting.com/travis-gienger-world-record-pumpkin. Accessed May 23, 2024.