DOSWELL—Last year’s State Fair of Virginia Giant Butternut Squash Competition winner Paul Jarosh of Culpeper County held the world record title briefly, before a Michigan grower bested his attempt.
But the sight of that 103-pounder at the State Fair fascinated Jason Loris of Rappahannock County.
“I said if I can get a couple seeds, I will bring the world record back to Virginia,” he promised Jarosh.
And he did—setting a new world record at this year’s State Fair with his 131.4-pound butternut squash that he carefully cultivated in a 2,000-square-foot raised bed with customized soil.
Loris first potted Jarosh’s seeds in his basement, where they thrived. He eventually moved the most vigorous butternut plants to the garden around Mother’s Day. They took on 3 feet of vine daily and had to be pruned every morning and evening.
“You have to pay attention to the details, because every seed’s genetics is different, even if it comes from the same squash,” Loris explained. “I ended up having two weighing more than last year’s world record! Who would’ve thought I could break a world record twice?”
His cohort Jarosh swept the competition in other categories this year, taking first place for his giant squash at 911.6 pounds—a State Fair record; a giant bushel gourd at 102 pounds; and giant tomato weighing 3.34 pounds. His giant pumpkin came in second at 923 pounds, topped by Ryan Cook of Jumping Branch, West Virginia, at 1,009 pounds.
“I’m ecstatic about the progress I made on different items,” Jarosh said. “Winning what I did was unexpected because there are great growers who attend the fair.”
Hank Houston of Spotsylvania County entered a long gourd measuring over 126 inches—a fair record; and a giant watermelon that captured first place at 224 pounds.
“I grew two 276-pound Carolina X watermelons last year—the current state record, and that’s where the seed came from,” Houston said. “I have genetics on that going back probably about 10 generations. Once you’ve grown a while and realize you have pretty good genetics, you have confidence in your own seed. But you also can make one little mistake, or have something weather-related happen that changes everything.”
Giant growers belong to a particular subculture that they keep alive through seed swapping and attracting new growers. Houston, who has competed for many years, said he is always re-energized at weigh-offs.
“You meet these guys, hang out, learn, and get some new ideas,” he said. “And then you’re itching to go again. It’s nice we’re getting newer growers like Paul and Jason in Virginia.”
See these giant vegetables and more at the State Fair of Virginia, running through Oct. 1 at The Meadow Event Park in Caroline County. Visit StateFairVa.org for more information.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.