(Courtesy photo)

CHESHIRE -- It began in April as just a seed, planted inside Daniel Kruszyna's house with a batch of others just like it.

At the end of the month, it was transferred outside into a mini-greenhouse on his Cheshire property.

By summer's end, it was a monster.

And at 1,295 pounds, it was more than just the champion pumpkin at the Big E's 2013 Pumpkin Contest -- it set a fair record.

"It's the biggest we've ever had," said Donna Woolam, the fair's director of agriculture. "In more than 20 years of records, no person has ever brought a heavier pumpkin to the fair."

Kruszyna's giant gourd broke the previous fair record, 1,284 pounds, set in 2008, according to Woolam.

"It was a good growing year," she said. "Not too dry, not too wet."

Hundreds of fairgoers gathered at the Mallory Complex in West Springfield last week to witness the weighing of the Northeast's champion pumpkins.

A pumpkin enthusiast of 20 years, Kruszyna said "no magic way" exists to grow such a gourd. But the seeds, Atlantic Giant being the preferred strand, are important as anything.

"Most of the growers trade seeds with one another, and there's a family tree on these things," he said. "Some go back 20 years."

Once the pumpkins become large enough, growers will transfer them off the ground and onto another surface. Kruszyna uses plywood.

"It's a challenge to make something grow that fast," Kruszyna said. "I'm out there [tending to the pumpkins] sometimes twice a day.


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I grew up on a farm [on West Mountain Road] and later got away from it. So this is my way of still being a farmer."

The primary change in technique this year? Kruszyna said he used mostly organic fertilizers; "no Miracle-Gro." He said his champion pumpkin weighed 7 percent heavier than estimated.

Kruszyna's pumpkin remains on display, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day, at the Big E's Farm-A-Rama building.

The two others, Kruszyna said he plans to bring to other fairs, including the Topsfield Fair near Boston next month. With any luck, he said, they'll weigh in favorably, too.

To reach Phil Demers:

pdemers@berkshireeagle.com

or (413) 464-1527.

On Twitter: @BE_PhilD