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Not bad for a city pumpkin

At 450 pounds, Bubba, Mark Thygesen's prize pumpkin may not win any awards but it does entertain the neighbors

It sits there in front of their Multnomah home-big, round and well protected, cared for like a baby.

It's the neighborhood giant pumpkin-450 or so pounds of it-and it's on its way to a pumpkin-weighing contest in Canby.

Mark Thygesen is not exactly the pumpkin's Dad, but he is obviously well informed and concerned about his product. As a youngster growing up in Newberg, Mark won a pumpkin growing contest with the help of his neighbor, and pumpkins have been in his thoughts ever since.

Three years ago he started growing a giant pumpkin. His first attempt didn't work out too well.

'It rotted on the bottom,' says his wife, Megan, who indulges her 46-year-old husband's pumpkin-growing passion with a (at times) forced smile. 'It's a very safe midlife crisis,' she says, considering more dangerous activities men might pursue, like riding motorcycles.

Megan tends a garden in back of the couple's house where 'normal vegetables' are grown and is in charge of pumpkin naming and carving. She named last year's pumpkin Beulah after reading an obituary in The Oregonian about a woman who lived to be 101. 'It seemed like the right name,' she said.

Beulah weighed in at 348 pounds and placed 36th out of 44 entries in the Canby contest.

'Not bad for the urban growers' category' Mark jokes. There is no such category-all pumpkins are judged by their weight alone, regardless of their individual upbringing. Last year's winner weighed in at 1,150 pounds. But that's nothing compared to last year's world champion-a 1,469-pound pumpkin produced by a grower in Pennsylvania.

There's money to be made from this, Mark says, though he does it as a hobby. A seed from the Pennsylvania world champion sells for $200, though Mark's wife will not allow him to spend that much on a seed.

This year's pumpkin is named Bubba and while Mark says it might reach 470 pounds, Megan thinks it's more likely to weigh around 450 pounds. The first year, the pumpkin had an overly wet bottom, so now Mark protects the pumpkin in a camping tent and pads the floor beneath the pumpkin 'with about three yards of cow manure.'

While his entry this year is unlikely to win, he might receive a token payment and seeds for next year.

In the neighborhood, children tstop by to enjoy the annual pumpkin-growing event and grownup neighbors are also interested-last year one even wrote a poem in memory of Beulah.

Other than his wife and his neighbors, Mark is supported by an active pumpkin-growing community. He is a member of the Pacific Giant Vegetable Growers Association. (Yes, there is such a group.) Other interested growers can get more information at www.pgvg.org

Bubba's fate will be determined Oct. 7 at the Canby Giant Pumpkin Weigh Off, which begins at 10 a.m. at Fir Point Farms in Aurora. The Thygesens are hosting a pumpkin-hauling event at their home near the intersection of Southwest 34th Avenue and Nevada Court on Oct. 6 in order to get Bubba off its cow manure compost bed and onto a truck. Those willing to help should look for the large orange ball under a tent.

Refreshments available to those who help lift.