Each year, Streator resident Gene McMullen has been packing on more pounds — on his pumpkins.
During the weekend, one of his pumpkins tipped the scales at 2,145 pounds, more than half the weight of the average car. It set the record in North America and only is second behind the all-time heaviest pumpkin.
In 2014, Beni Meier in Switzerland broke the world record for heaviest pumpkin at 2,096 pounds. Within weeks, he then broke the record twice at 2,102 and 2,323 pounds.
McMullen only grows a few pumpkins every year at his house on Short Street, near the high school football field — something he has done for nearly two decades.
His other two pumpkins this year also are heavy — one is 1,546 pounds, the other is "only 700 or 800 pounds," McMullen said. Most of his larger pumpkins require the use of a small end loader to move.
Last year, McMullen, who works at SABIC's Innovative Plastics, grew a 1,692-pound pumpkin, the eighth largest in the world at the time.
To get them so large, he said, takes a certain amount of breeding of plants and a healthy dose of luck. Also, he has carefully tended the soil throughout the years, saying he was advised that if "you feed your soil, your soil feeds your plant."
He may take some time off from growing, calling this year's whopper his "retirement pumpkin."
"I'll relax next year," McMullen said. "It's not a whole bunch of work, but a lot of work at certain times of the month. This is a hobby, so I'll probably never quit completely."
He's storing the record-breaking pumpkin at his son's house; it has a shot at being shown at the New York Botanical Garden.
Throughout the weekend, it was shown at the Cedarburg Wine and Harvest Festival in Wisconsin.