Larger than life: Kansas’s largest pumpkin makes its way to the Little Apple

Kansas's largest pumpkin is on display at the Flint Hills Discovery Center now through October 5. (Courtesy image Jacob Marintzer)

It can be called a great pumpkin, a grand gourd or a giant jack-o-lantern. All of these names could work, but the one name it can definitely claim is that of Kansas’s largest pumpkin.

On display just inside the front entrance of the Flint Hills Discovery Center until Oct. 5, the 1176 pound behemoth of a pumpkin sits larger than life for anyone who wishes to see it.

This pumpkin was offered as a free attraction to the Flint Hill Discovery Center by the grower himself, Jacob Marintzer, who is also a network and technology administrator for the K-State Alumni Association.

Marintzer’s pumpkin is the product of a competitive man who grew up with a dad who farmed and a mom who gardened.

“I just thought it was frickin’ cool because they’d just grow so fast you could literally watch them grow. So that kind of drew me to it,” Marintzer said.

While the pumpkin has earned Marintzer the bragging rights for having grown the largest pumpkin in Kansas, he is no newbie when it comes to grand gourds.

Marintzer also broke the record for growing the largest pumpkin in Kansas in 2016 by growing a 938-pound pumpkin.

While Marintzer has found plenty of success in the area of pumpkin-growing, he has also found that doing so in Kansas has not been a very easy task due to the state’s recent hot and humid weather.

This lead him to build a greenhouse in which he could continue to grow his pumpkins.

Marintzer said while the process of getting the soil ready for planting giant pumpkins begins as soon as the previous pumpkin has been removed, the process of growing a particular seed begins in early April.

In the world of growing record-breaking pumpkins, not just any seed will do.

Marintzer, along with other growers, purchase seeds which have come from giant pumpkins. In other words, many giant-pumpkin growers purchase seeds with giant-pumpkin genes.

“In the winter time we are like horse breeders who breed a certain horse because they’re a thoroughbred and they run really fast and they’re really tall with really long legs and stuff like that,” Marintzer said. “Well we do the same thing with pumpkins.”

Once the seeds are planted, the long process of caring for the plant begins.

Marintzer said one of the keys to growing a large pumpkin is keeping the plant itself healthy. When it’s growing, he is there every day to fertilize his pumpkin and give it 100 to 300 gallons of water.

One rumor is that Marintzer uses milk to help his pumpkins grow.

“Back in the day, it was thought that you could put milk on the pumpkin and have them grow by actually dumping it on there,” Marintzer said, laughing. “And guys would do that, but we have learned that that is not really anything that does anything. So that was a misquote. Myth busted.”

His process of learning how to better take care of his pumpkin plants from one year to the next has resulted in record-breaking pumpkins and lofty goals. Marintzer has made it a goal of his to grow a pumpkin that will hit 1500 pounds by Aug. 1 next year. If he can hit that goal, Marintzer is confident he can hit his next goal, 2000 pounds.

If Marintzer’s goals seem too high, the current record-holder for the United States is 2,363 pounds while the world record holder weighed in at 2,624 pounds.

“The goal for everybody right now is to hit 3000 pounds,” Marintzer said. “That’s what everybody is chasing at the moment.”

Since the seed was first planted, Marintzer’s current record holder has been to a few different places.

The record itself was actually broken when the pumpkin weighed in at Dewey, OK, during an Oklahoma Giant Pumpkin Growers Club weigh-off and took first place.

The pumpkin’s latest location is right here in the Little Apple.

Since its arrival at the Discovery Center on a trailer, Katharine Hensler, the assistant director of the Flint Hills Discover Center, has found the pumpkin to be more popular than she expected.

“It’s funny, we spend a lot of time and sometimes even money advertising special things here,” Hensler said. “This we just put on a social media post and said ‘hey, we’ve got Kansas’s largest pumpkin on record here at the Discovery Center’ and within 24 hours we already had more than 12,500 touches on just Facebook.”

To really understand the size of such a gourd, which took a forklift to be transported from the trailer to the building, one either needs to see it in person. Or, just ask Grace Moulton, was visted the Discovery Center with her mom, Angie Fogo-Moulton to see the pumpkin.

“I think it is bigger than me,” Grace said.