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Oregon Farmer Wins Pumpkin Contest as Gourds Weigh Less in Drought

An Oregon farmer won the annual 42nd Half Moon Bay pumpkin weigh-off on Monday, when his gourd clocked in at just shy of a ton.

Steve Daletas' pumpkin  weighed 1,969 pounds, which means he'll take home about $11,000 and his wife will get to remodel their kitchen in Pleasant Hill, Oregon, he joked, downplaying the role he had in his big win. "Maybe we were in the right spot," Daletas said, noting that Oregon isn't suffering from the severe drought that California has over the last four years. "I feel good."

 Ron and Karen Root from Citrus Heights, California who won the same contest in 2010, came in second place with a pumpkin that weighed 1,806 pounds.

While certainly impressively heavy, the pumpkins weighed at the self-described Pumpkin Capital of the World were hundreds of pounds lighter than in previous years - a fact farmers attributed in large part to California's rainless winters.

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For example, Napa farmer John Hawkley's pumpkin came in 7th place, weighing 1,447 pounds, this year. But Hawkley claimed the North American title in 2014 when his pumpkin weighed in at 2,058 pounds at the same contest last year.

Gary Miller, of Napa, the 2013 winner of the contest whose pumpkin this year ranked 10th, said the drought "definitely" has affected his growing abilities, "no doubt about it," including the costs to water and nurture his pumpkins. He hoped his pumpkin would top out at 1,500 pounds, while in past years, he could have grown his gourd about 300 pounds heavier. In actuality, Miller's pumpkin, nicknamed "Jaba," weighed 1,303 pounds at this year's contest.

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Before the sun came up, Jack Larue from Tenino, Washington, said he has his "fingers and toes crossed" that his roughly pumpkin would be dubbed No. 1 gourd. But he acknowledged that the "numbers have been down overall" in the last few years in terms of weight. This year, his pumpkin weighed 1,685 pounds, taking third place.

Mulino, Oregon, resident Jim Sherwood said hot weather where he lives has actually helped his green thumb, although his pumpkin this year was "a little bit smaller," clocking in at about 1,200 or 1,300 pounds.

"The conditions were great," he said. "It was hotter than normal. The pumpkins loved it."

But maybe that was wishful thinking. Sherwood's pumpkin placed eighth at 1,309 pounds.

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