TOPSFIELD — Jamie Johnson came all the way from Denver to the Topsfield Fair this weekend to meet some of his biggest heroes.
Although many people go to all lengths to meet their favorite rock star, actor or sports figure, Johnson, an avid giant pumpkin grower, flew out to New England to meet guys like Joe Jutras, who currently holds the world record for growing the heaviest pumpkin.
"There are so many big-name people in the giant-pumpkin-growing community who are here," said Johnson, a Web site designer in his 30s. "It was great to be able to come out and talk to these guys and get tips on growing."
Giant pumpkin weigh-off competitions take place all over the world, but the annual weigh-off event at the Topsfield Fair is known as the "Super Bowl" of all pumpkin weigh-offs, Johnson said. On Saturday hundreds gathered in the fair arena to see which giant pumpkin would weigh the most in this popular offbeat competition.
Jutras broke the world record for heaviest pumpkin at last year's fair. His enormous gourd weighed in at 1,689 pounds and its record has yet to be broken. Although no world records were broken this year, it was still an exciting event for both growers and the audience watching.
"It gets more exciting every year," said Charlene Maglio, a Framingham resident who has been coming to this event for 20 years. "The pumpkins just keep getting bigger and bigger."
Armand Michaud, 72, of Ipswich has been growing giant pumpkins for 10 years. He planted five pumpkins this year starting on April 26.
"It's a good hobby and I get to meet great people from all over," he said. "We have a lot of fun, swap seeds and talk the baloney every year."
His pumpkin this year weighed in at 1092.7 pounds. He has a bigger pumpkin he plans to bring to a competition in Rhode Island.
It takes a lot of work and dedication to grow these giant pumpkins. At one point Michaud's pumpkin was growing up to 50 pounds a day.
"You're out there all the time, weeding and fertilizing," said Michaud. "My wife knows exactly where I am."
This year's winning pumpkin weighed in at 1,464 pounds and was grown by Wes Dwelly, 72, of Oakham. His prize was a check for $5,500.
"It is something you get addicted to," said Dwelly. "Each spring I can't wait to plant, the pumpkins grow real fast and you're busy as heck (to care for it) but it's all worth it when you come in first place at the Topsfield Fair."
That sort of enthusiasm wasn't lot on Johnson, the visitor from the Mile High City. His wife, Amber, arranged this whole trip to the Topsfield Fair as a present to him.
"This was his fantasy, to come out here and meet his heroes," she said. "He got to meet lots of growers and get some good tips for next season.
"He almost passed out."