FAIRBANKS — The Iles family arrived at the Tanana Valley State Fair at about 9:30 a.m. Saturday with a truckload of vegetables.
Make that a truck loaded with one enormous vegetable.
Dave Iles, one of the giants of the giant-vegetable hobby in Alaska, drove a pickup loaded with a pumpkin grown by his sons, Anthony and Daniel, to the back gate.
There also were a couple of plus-sized turnips in the 15-20 pound range and a Kohlrabi that wouldn’t fit in a carry-on bag, but the pumpkin was the star attraction. It was grown at the Iles greenhouse with a system he developed that combines hydroponics and aeroponics.
Iles, who works as a field engineer in quality control, has set world records with Kale and Kohlrabi. Last year, he grew a 50-inch ear of corn.
The pumpkin, which was a mere seed in mid-March, was unloaded by forklift and gingerly placed atop the livestock scale to determine its poundage.
This didn’t have the drama or flashing lights of a weigh-in on “The Biggest Loser,” but it was exciting nonetheless. Mark it down at 424 pounds. Jack, of “Jack and the Beanstalk” fame, would approve.
It’s not close to the world record, which belongs to someone in Ohio who grew a 1,700-pounder. And it’s not even the biggest one the Iles family has tended at Dave’s Greenhouse. Five years ago Dave had a 752-pound monster at the fair.
But this one looks like a pumpkin, not like a laboratory accident, and it has a nice solid feel to it.
Check it out at the Kiwanis Agricultural Hall at the fairgrounds. Look for the color orange.
When Ralph Seekins saw it after the weigh-in, he wondered aloud how many pumpkin pies it would produce. “A big one,” I said.
After the fair, the pumpkin might go on tour, first to Ladd Elementary School where Anthony is entering the third grade, and then to North Pole High School, where Daniel is to be a freshman.
After that, it might become the biggest Jack-o-Lantern in the history of Fairbanks, a great pumpkin.
BATH TIME: While waiting for the great pumpkin, I had the chance to talk with a couple of kids who were washing their pigs.
John Villa, 9, a student at Ticasuk Brown Elementary, said his pig, who was squealing during his entire bath, weighs 231 pounds.
Cora Osimowicz, 11, a student at Barnette Magnet School, has two pigs in the fair, Churchill and Roosevelt. She was washing Roosevelt at that moment and was happy that he was up to 256 pounds. Her dad, Len, was helping out.
When you watch the children tending their animals at the fair, the one thing you notice is that in most cases their parents are helping out and sharing the experience, a benefit to both generations.
Dermot Cole can be reached at email@example.com or