Dan Carlson lifts the pumpkin up to be placed into a truck while Mark Petersen assists Thursday.

Angie Bicker/Clinton Herald
Lifestyle Editor

Have you ever wanted to grow “the big one,” a pumpkin so large that it would put the “The Great Pumpkin” to shame? For Dan Carlson and Marc Petersen, of Clinton, the answer to that question is pretty much a no brainer.

For 20 years, Carlson has set out to grow “the big one.” His backyard, the majority of it a sea of pumpkin vines, is dedicated to this endeavor every year. For Carlson, growing pumpkins started out as a contest at work to see who could grow the biggest one. From there it has blossomed into a passion.  

“(I’ve) learned different techniques to help them along. It’s a good hobby; keeps you pretty busy,” he said.

Carlson admits there have been some ups and downs, including this year due to the extreme heat and inconsistent rainfall. To help his plants combat the conditions, he turned to a sophisticated timer, which sprayed water on the plants when the mercury reached 90 degrees or more.

Besides dealing with the weather, Carlson also has had to combat fungus and disease caused by the heat and humidity. If this wasn’t enough, little furry critters are in a league all of their own and have wreaked havoc on the pumpkin patch. In 2008, the pair had a hefty 1,400-pound beauty until it was attacked and decimated by a ground hog. Carlson added, “it was big enough to win.” But with everything, he said, that is the chance you take.

When most people aren’t even thinking of starting their gardens, Carlson and Petersen are already priming their pumpkin patch to grow a winner. Both started their prize-winning quest March 28 equipped with heated coils and huts to keep their plants warm.

On Thursday, a season filled with perseverance and hard work came to an end when the team, known as C&P, hoisted up their best pumpkin to take to the Iowa State Fair. With a tripod and pulley system, Carlson and Petersen hoisted it up and gently placed it on a carpeted pallet in the back of Carlson’s truck.

Petersen, who joined Carlson in 2004, said their entry, which is estimated at 1,175 pounds, will be strapped down in Carlson’s truck bed with a couple wet blankets to prevent evaporation and loss of weight while traveling to the fair.

Today, Carlson and Petersen, are in Des Moines to find out how their pumpkin stands up to the best competitors in the state. Last year the pair grabbed first-place honors with their 1,323-pound entry, which won by a margin of 350 pounds. They also garnered a first-place finish at Anamosa’s Ryan Norlin Pumpkin Fest.

The results of today’s weigh-in will be published in Saturday’s edition of the Clinton Herald.

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