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King Pumpkin sets Ohio record at 2,195 pounds

RECORD-SETTER — The Theil family poses with the King Pumpkin in Barnesville on Wednesday after the winning entry tipped the scales at 2,195 pounds. The family includes, from left, Hunter, 14, mother Michelle, father and grower Jeff, and 11-year-old Sara. -- Jennifer Compston-Strough

BARNESVILLE — The audience Wednesday was smaller than usual, but the King Pumpkin was bigger than ever — setting an Ohio record at 2,195 pounds.

The enormous gourd was grown by Dillonvale resident Jeff Theil, who said he has been striving to win the Barnesville Pumpkin Festival Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off since 2017. And with a prize of $2 per pound for the winning entry, his efforts this 57th year of the contest paid off to the tune of $4,390.

The annual weigh-off paused briefly Wednesday to honor the arrival of the Eyes of Freedom Lima Company Memorial in the village around 6:45 p.m.

The traveling tribute to “all who answer our nation’s call,” pulled into town aboard a tractor-trailer escorted by dozens of motorcyclists as well as local fire, emergency medical and police departments. Among those in the motorcade were Belmont County Sheriff David Lucas and members of the Barnesville, Somerton, Bethesda, Belmont and Morristown fire and EMS departments along with the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The memorial will be on display noon to 8 p.m. today and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Barnesville Middle School, 970 Shamrock Drive in Barnesville.

After the weigh-off resumed, numerous gigantic pumpkins tipped the scales this year. Todd and Donna Skinner of Barnesville, past champions and state record holders with a 2,150-pound pumpkin grown in 2017, took second place with a 2,078-pounder this year. In third was Doug Kisamore of Diamond, Ohio, whose giant fruit weighed 2,003 pounds.

Tim Miller, weigh-off coordinator, announced that the King Pumpkin had set a state record. He is a representative of the World Wide Great Pumpkin Commonwealth for the contest,

Theil said he got interested in pumpkin growing because his dad had done it in the past. In fact, Bill Theil of Colerain claimed the king’s crown in Barnesville in 1985 with a 374-pound pumpkin. The first festival entry to top 1,000 pounds came courtesy of the Skinners in 2000.

Theil said his dad got out of growing for a while, then got back into it. At that point, the younger Theil said, he entered a friendly competition with his father.

“I said, ‘I’m gonna beat you,’ and that was that.”

Regarding his enormous orange champion produce this year, Jeff Theil said “time in the patch” is the key to success. He said growing such a large pumpkin requires “lots of water and the right soil,” although he said he would have preferred drier weather this summer so he could have better controlled the water his pumpkin received, reducing the chase of disease.

Theil said the seed for his pumpkin came from Washington state. Another grower there contacted Theil and arranged for them to trade some seeds.

Asked how he felt about his success, Theil said simply: “I’m blessed.”

Barnesville Pumpkin Festival festivities continue daily through Sunday.

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